A "tough cop" will police the Murray-Darling Basin to crack down on water theft and a raft of integrity concerns under a Morrison government proposal.
Federal Water Minister David Littleproud will ask his state and territory counterparts to back a new inspector-general to oversee the basin at a meeting on Sunday.
The independent umpire would investigate suspected water theft, as well to ensure that efficiency and recovery projects are delivered across the river system.
"This is a new tough cop on the beat across the Murray-Darling, with the powers needed to ensure integrity in delivery of the basin plan," Mr Littleproud said on Thursday.
The water minister backed Northern Basin Commissioner and former federal police commissioner Mick Keelty to become the inspector-general permanently.
"Mick Keelty is an eminently qualified Australian and I hope that he considers his future in putting his hand up for this position because he has brought a lot of confidence back to the northern basin," he said.
Mr Keelty will step down as commissioner while he acts in the new role.
The inspector-general is expected to be established by 2020, costing $8 million over four years to establish an agency with about 10 staff.
He or she will have the power to compel evidence and pass it to federal and state integrity commissions.
"This is about maintaining the integrity and the trust in the basin plan and to make sure there's continued transparency," Mr Littleproud said.
The federal government is also working towards splitting the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's roles as both the body that implements the plan and regulates it, as recommended by the Productivity Commission.
Sunday's ministerial meeting also looms as a showdown between NSW and SA over 450 gigalitres of water designated as environmental water in the southern basin.
NSW's water minister Melinda Pavey said earlier in the week the long-running plan may not be achievable, sparking a firm response from her opposite number in SA, David Spiers.
Mr Littleproud said delivering the water had met the crucial social and economic neutrality test in December.
"That was akin to getting peace in the Middle East, that was difficult," he said.
"The reality is that water - along with the other measures - can all be delivered."
Australian Associated Press