Water Journal : Water Journal June 2015
water June 2015 10 CrossCurrent International In spite of the prolonged drought conditions gripping California, it’s the state of water and wastewater infrastructure and how to finance capital improvements that top the list of concerns facing water professionals throughout North America, according to the American Water Works Association’s 2015 State of the Water Industry Report. You can access the full report at www.awwa.org. The Obama administration has issued a rule to protect streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act, a step it says will help keep drinking water safe. The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, issued by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, aims to give clarity about which bodies of water the EPA would have jurisdiction over. Environmental groups have praised the measures, but farmers fear they could face steep fines if traces of fertiliser or manure are discharged without a permit into bodies of water under the EPA's regulatory powers. Lawmakers from farm states have blasted the rule and called on the administration to withdraw or redo it. The New Zealand Office of the Auditor-General has investigated the state of infrastructure maintenance done by local authorities, and what is needed to ensure the provision of roads and water supply, wastewater and stormwater in the future. In New Zealand these assets are collectively worth more than $100 billion. The Office analysed the asset management practices of 31 selected local authorities that between them own 74% of local authority property, plant and equipment assets nationwide. National The Government has released its White Paper on Developing Northern Australia: Our North, Our Future. The White Paper sets out an ambitious long-term reform agenda for the north, delivering an initial investment of $1.2 billion in addition to the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to provide concessional finance for infrastructure projects. The White Paper includes measures to unlock the north’s potential across six key areas: simpler land arrangements to support investment; developing the north’s water resources; growing the north as a business, trade and investment gateway; investing in infrastructure to lower business and household costs; reducing barriers to employing people; and improving governance. The Government will support the development of more water resources in the north by establishing a $200 million Water Infrastructure Development Fund. The Fund will provide up to $5 million for a feasibility analysis for the Nullinga Dam near Cairns, and up to $5 million for a detailed examination of land-use suitability for Ord Stage 3. Secure water rights will be a condition for any water delivered through new Commonwealth funded water infrastructure. The Government will also provide $15 million for water resource assessments of the Mitchell River (Queensland), West Kimberley (Western Australia) and Darwin region (Northern Territory). More information on the White Paper is available at: northernaustralia.dpmc.gov.au The House of Representatives has passed legislation to abolish the National Water Commission. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, Bob Baldwin, said the legislation would save $21 million over forward estimates. “All Governments have made substantial progress in water reform so there is no longer a need for the National Water Commission to operate as a standalone agency,” Mr Baldwin said. “It’s important to note that the key statutory functions of the NWC will be carried out by other agencies to ensure their delivery is not affected.” The Coalition passed the legislation through the Senate on May 13. The Australian Government says it is delivering on its commitment to Murray-Darling Basin communities, introducing legislation for a 1,500 gigalitre cap on water purchases in the Basin. Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, said the Water Amendment Bill 2015 would ensure certainty for Murray-Darling Basin communities. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority is calling on basin water users to see the river system as a national asset. Chair, Neil Andrew, said many water users were still blaming others in the river system for using too much water, rather than working together. He said it would be difficult to find the perfect medium between getting the river to full health and using it as an irrigation source, and getting the states to work together. Australia’s productivity and quality of life will be tested, with population and economic growth set to cause increasing congestion and bottlenecks, according to the nation's first comprehensive infrastructure audit. Releasing the report, Infrastructure Australia Chairman Mark Birrell said Australia must act now before these demand pressures affect our living standards and economic competitiveness. "Experiences of transport networks failing to keep pace with demand, water quality standards being uneven, energy costs being too high, telecommunication services being outdated, or freight corridors being neglected are now so common that they necessitate a strategic response," he said. Water trading organisation Waterfind has released its quarterly CEO Report (Q3) for the 2014–2015 irrigation year. The report finds that the national temporary water market has continued to record the highest average prices since the Millennium drought. Dry conditions and lower water availability kept the demand for temporary water high during Q3 of the 2014–15 irrigation season, while heavy rainfall in April reduced demand only slightly. Within the Southern-Connected system, a major share of demand for temporary water has come from irrigators in Victoria, especially from the Murray, below the Barmah Choke and Goulburn systems. The ACCC has released its fifth Water Monitoring Report, which will help inform its current review of the Commonwealth's water charge rules. The report details the impact of water market and charge reforms on irrigators and infrastructure operators in the Murray-Darling Basin. Under the water market rules, irrigators are able to more easily "transform" and trade their water free from any operator restrictions. The rules also limit the fees that can be charged when an irrigator wants to change or terminate their water delivery arrangements.
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