Water Journal : Current November 2017
www.awa.asn.au 8 A NEW NATIONAL APPROACH TO WATER Throughout the year the level of business optimism has grown significantly across the water sector. Members have reported an increase in the number of new business deals, contracts and opportunities as long-waited water infrastructure projects commence. Many of our large water utility members have engaged consultants, project managers and suppliers on new work and state governments have announced new water infrastructure projects with suggestions that there are more on the planning boards. Business and investment in the commercial, industrial, and agricultural sectors has also created new demand for the water industry. The Association's own measure of increased business demand can be seen in the massive increase in applications for our Australian Water Awards this year. The Association itself has also grown with nearly 300 new members since July and we announced an annual surplus of $186,000 at the AGM in Melbourne last month. Hopefully, this positive trend will continue into 2018 and enable the water industry to enjoy a period of strong but steady growth. However, in the background of these positive economic signs the water sector faces continuing challenges. The Australian community maintains concerns about how Australia is managing aspects of our water resources and how Australia will provide future water security and environmental sustainability. The community concerns on water go beyond the general fear of climate change and can be seen in more tangible matters that include the impact of coal mining on water resources (most recently with the proposed Adani mine in the Galilee Basin); our vulnerable energy markets and the potential of increased hydro-electricity; the misuse of water entitlements for agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin (in both NSW and Queensland); failure to comply with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines in regional and remote locations; and the lack of progress in urban water reform (to drive improved competition, the integration of water cycle planning, and investment in new or upgraded water infrastructure). Balancing these competing demands for water needs to become a national priority as we plan for Australia's future growth industries, massive urban expansion and the increasing value placed on our natural environment. Serious political cracks are appearing in the fabric of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The compliance regimes of the states have been proved woefully inadequate to prevent misuse of water entitlements. The states themselves are questioning if we have got the model right under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. All of these concerns at both the political and community levels point to the need for a clear National Water Plan that can be administered and enforced with transparency and fairness. The Association has written to the Productivity Commission following the publication of its Draft Report and has called for a major shakeup of the institutional architecture of the rural and urban water sectors. We have called for the preparation of a National Water Plan (to replace the National Water Initiative) that is negotiated with all the states and territories, approved by the Coalition of Australian Governments (COAG) and implemented by a new independent National Water Authority (reporting to Parliament and not the Minister). The proposed National Water Authority needs to be given the teeth and resources to implement the agreed plan. The national plan in essence needs to implement three national frameworks capable of adequately balancing the competing demands for water to provide sustainable water security for all Australians. The three new national frameworks for which we have advocated are water trading, water resource planning and urban water planning (including economic regulation; competitive neutrality; and integrated water cycle management). Australia's economic development is directly linked to how we manage our water resources. We need a national discussion on how the states, territories and the commonwealth can manage our water sustainably and fairly. From the Chief Executive Jonathan McKeown Australian Water Association Chief Executive SERIOUS POLITICAL CRACKS ARE APPEARING IN THE FABRIC OF THE MURRAY-DARLING BASIN PLAN.
Current August 2017