5 June 2017

OZwater17 had a Water Policy Stream which looked at the National Water Initiative Review. Here are my notes and recommendations from that stream

The national water initiative is only a short- mid to term approach to water security management. The current National Water Initiative is far from completed. Many issues remain including;

  • Indigenous participation in water management.
  • Consistent environmental water practices.
  • Water quality in rural and remotes areas.
  • The development of water plans across the states,
  • The over allocation of and/or adjustment of overused systems.
  • The lack of best practise water pricing and harmonised institutional arrangements.
  • Knowledge gaps remain particularly in water foresight and localised climate change effects.

The Opportunity

There is now an opportunity to bring the millennium drought lessons, climate change and urban water reform into a new National Water Initiative

Any new National Water Initiative needs to be accompanied by a longer-term commitment to Water Security for all Australians. The consequences of not addressing the long-term strategic water issues can be seen by the failures of our water supplies during the millennium drought and the inflated costs that were required to address the issues.

The water industry has lost leadership with the demise ‪of the National Water Commission. With the scrapping of the NWC, no one has taken responsibility for the strategic thinking needed within the water industry.

Water planning issues have a long timeframe. With the lack of knowledge as to how climate variability will affect our water cycle at a local level, it is more imperative than ever that long-term strategic thinking around water issues continues. Failure to do so might result in costly remedies that could have been prevented with better knowledge and planning.

A new leadership model needs to be developed, including COAG level, 1st secretary level and a viable, if not significantly smaller version of the National Water Commission.

We need to recognise that a Water Reform Committee has been established at 1st secretary level, as well as an Urban Water Reform Committee has been established at 1st secretary level (chaired by Paul Morris).

The new National Water Reform Committee will review the ‪Productivity Commission report and determine what the future of water reform looks like in Australia.

There are several issues that need to be addressed within a future national water reform initiative. These include;

  • The loss of water leadership
  • Inconsistency across and independence of economic regulation of utilities
  • Harmonisation of legislation, QLD and NSW’s only consistency in water governance is inconsistency! This is dangerous!
  • Inflexible approaches to health, safety and environmental regulation
  • Alignment of industry, innovation and research efforts
  • Long term Urban Water Infrastructure development planning in regional areas
  • Urban planning, population growth and urbanisation needs to be better aligned with regional water planning including addressing the Institutional Barriers to Integrated Water Cycle Management
  • Increasing the understanding of the role of water in liveability
  • Integrating the effects of the Paris agreement and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals into our businesses
  • The effects of climate change are not understood at a localised or operational level
  • More Issues need to include seawater rise and saltwater infiltration

The way forward:

The Australian Water Associations needs to;

  • maintain a strong advocacy base for its members including the leading of water reform and water security debates.
  • continue to put input into the Productivity Commissions review.
  • discuss these issues with both the Water Reform Committee and the Urban Water Reform Committee.
  • develop an industry based leadership model to support these committees.

National Water Initiative Review & Reform - Nixon Clarity