More work needed on water reform

By Rob O’Brien

A biennial assessment of the Federal Government’s water reform has identified areas where reform has been inadequate despite progress in other areas.

In its 2009 Biennial Assessment, the National Water Commission’s second two-yearly assessment of progress in the implementation of the National Water Initiative, the Commission reported significant progress in water reform across Australia, making 68 recommendations.

In its executive summary, the Commission said that progress over the past two years had been good, but identified some areas where reform has been slow or inadequate.

Based on its findings, the report made 68 recommendations for further action to refocus national reform efforts over the next two years.

The Commission stressed that the states and territories that share the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) were an important focus for several areas of water reform, but stressed that many of the challenges in the basin apply elsewhere in Australia.

Lessons from the Murray-Darling Basin could benefit water management across the nation, the Commission said.

The report also said that the reform agenda would benefit from further urban and rural water reform including economic productivity gains, sustainable use of natural resources, and a more harmonised and efficient approach to water management.

Federal reaction

In welcoming the report’s findings, Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, said that progress had been made in a number of critical areas including water trade reform and management of the Murray-Darling Basin.
“The report supports the Government’s Murray-Darling Basin initiatives including the Federal Government’s take-over of Basin planning, setting a scientifically-based limit on the amount of water use in the Basin, and our water purchase program,” she said.
“However, we agree with the report’s assessment that there is still work to do to secure Australia’s water future.
“That is why we have committed $12.9 billion to a long-term plan, Water for the Future, that has four key priorities: taking action on climate change, securing our water supplies, using water wisely, and supporting healthy rivers.”
Programs under Water for the Future include $5.8 billion to help make irrigation infrastructure more efficient, and $1.5 billion to help Australian cities, towns and households secure their water supplies.
The National Water Commission is required to undertake biennial assessments of progress in implementing the National Water Initiative. It covers all states and territories, groundwater and surface water systems, and urban and rural areas.
In producing the 2009 Biennial Assessment, the Commission drew on a wide range of sources, including submissions from the public and NWI parties, many reports and studies, selected consultancies, and a stakeholder forum held in May 2009.

To view the report’s findings and recommendations click here

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