LABOR'S election commitment to deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on time and in full is at a "high or extreme risk" of not being delivered, according to a second report in as many weeks.
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority's mid-year report card showed although the plan was progressing well in a number of categories, three areas have fallen so far off target they - and therefore the plan as a whole - were unlikely to meet the mid-2024 deadline.
Water Minister Tanya Plibersek has been handed a mammoth task to complete the plan on time, which Labor declared as a key promise early in its election campaign, in the marginal South Australian seat of Boothby.
The three hurdles she faces are the NSW government's water resource plans, which are more than two years overdue, recovering the 450 gigalitres of environmental water through efficiency measures and seven water recovery projects unlikely to be finished within the next two years.
NSW has submitted just seven of its 20 WRP to the MDBA - only three of which are being reviewed, while the remaining four are in the pre-assessment phase.
Ms Plibersek said she expected the remaining 13 NSW plans to be "delivered as soon as possible", but set no new deadline.
"I've had constructive conversations with NSW Water Minister Kevin Anderson, he has assured me the 20 plans are coming as fast as possible," she said.
Early this year, Inspector-General for Water Compliance Troy Grant warned he would encourage Ms Plibersek to intervene and order the MDBA to finish the plans if NSW continued to stall.
"I can confirm I've provided the minister with a brief of her Commonwealth powers and although it's not the ideal pathway, she is cognisant that it is an option," Mr Grant said.
"I remain hopeful the NSW Minister's assurances that their commitment will be honoured is genuine, and not a narrative or spin."
Last week the Water for the Environment Special Account report, which had been kept secret by the previous government, revealed it would be impossible to achieve the 450GL target under the current settings, even if all time and money restraints were removed.
The MDBA report card said so far 2GL had been recovered and a further 22GL was expected to be delivered through the completion of three projects, however the total water recovered remained "relatively minor in the context of the 450GL" target.
"The community knows that these key elements of the Basin Plan will not be delivered on time and are calling for a clear plan to manage incomplete implementation," the report card stated.
Ms Plibersek reiterated she was considering all options - including water buybacks - to recover the 450GL.
"The report card shows that whilst great progress has been made in many aspects of the Plan, other parts have been allowed to drift off course," she said.
MDBA chief executive Andrew McConville said much of the responsibility, such as completing the water recovery projects, lay at the feet of the state governments and there was little the federal government could do other than "continue to work with them".
"It is in their own best interest to deliver these projects on time," Mr McConville said.
"We're in the last mile of the race, and that's the toughest part. We want to finish what we started and it is frustrating.
"But at the same time, we have to stick at it and continue working with the states in a constructive way."