Environment Minister Tony Burke says he will consider using special Commonwealth intervention powers if the states can’t agree on the Murray Darling by the end of the year.
“My hope is that I don’t have to use them … and that we come to an agreement,” he told AAP.
“But if they can’t reach an agreement then I have powers under the Water Act to reach a decision.”
Murray Darling Basin states are opposing a rescue plan for the threatened river system, which proposes returning 2750 gigalitres of water to the system per year.
Mr Burke made the comments after announcing final maps of a network of 44 marine parks on Thursday.
The federal government is set to hold further meetings on the Murray Darling with the states.
Mr Burke said the meetings were difficult for all involved but there was a chance of reaching an agreement this year.
“We are pulling too much water out of the system, and it’s been living as though it’s in drought for years already,” he said.
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill is vehemently opposed to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) latest draft plan, released on Monday, and has threatened to launch a High Court challenge if Mr Burke signs off on it.
A spokeswoman for the MDBA said state water ministers were scheduled to meet next on June 29 for a legislative and governance forum on the Murray Darling Basin.