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National Water Reform – draft report open for comment

September 20, 2017

National Water Reform Draft Report is open for comment until Thursday 19 October 2017.

The National Water Reform Draft Report is seeking to enhance national policy settings in urban water management as a key priority, through the establishment of clearer roles and responsibilities for supply augmentation planning, enabling decentralised solutions and more outcomes-focused environmental regulation.

Incorporating alternative water sources

The draft report addresses the need for urban water entitlements for stormwater, recycled water and their use in managed aquifer recharge schemes or for the provision of environmental flows (page 14).  The intent is to protect other entitlement holders and reduce barriers to investment in these supply options. For example, without arrangements in place to allow for extraction of managed aquifer recharge, any water injected into the aquifer would add to the pool available for all groundwater users. This would undermine the incentive for any party to invest in a managed aquifer recharge project.

In response the report offers Draft Recommendation 3.1 (e) (page 24) of the report states State and Territory Governments should ensure that their entitlement frameworks can incorporate alternative water sources, such as stormwater, wastewater, and managed aquifer recharge, so they do not present a barrier to efficient investment in these supply options

Making urban water management more robust and responsive (page 16 and 17)

It is encouraging to see mention of the need to acknowledge the multiple benefits of integrated water management and water sensitive urban design.  At the May 2017 joint Stormwater SA, Hydrological Society and Water Sensitive SA, event in Adelaide we heard from Shiroma Maheepal, of the Victorian Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning on how integrated water management (IWM) is being put into practice in Victoria.  The establishment of IWM Forums under the Integrated Water Management Framework for Victoria will better liveability outcomes for the community.

The National Water Reform Report appears to be following suit seeking that Governments ensure that these approaches can be considered alongside conventional centralised approaches by developing IWCM plans for major growth corridors and significant infill developments accompanied by evaluation of costs and benefits.)

In response the report offers the following two recommendations:

Draft recommendation 6.3 (page 30) State and Territory Governments should:

  1. ensure that roles and responsibilities for supply augmentation planning are clearly allocated between governments and utilities
  2. require that decision-making processes are consistent with good planning principles, in particular that they consider all options fully and transparently, including both centralised and decentralised approaches (including indirect and direct potable reuse, and reuse of stormwater), and are adaptive in response to new information. Australian, State and Territory Governments should enhance the National Water Initiative to align with recommendation 6.3 (b).

Draft recommendation 6.4 (page 31) State and Territory Governments should ensure that decentralised integrated water cycle management (IWCM) approaches are considered on an equal footing alongside other water supply and management approaches, particularly in the planning of new developments to support growth.

Priorities are:

  1. ensuring that place-based IWCM plans are developed for major growth corridors and significant infill development locations
  2. ensuring that options identified in IWCM plans are considered in water system planning, including both high-level system-wide planning and detailed investment planning, and in land-use planning
  3. ensuring that IWCM projects are implemented when they are shown to be cost-effective (considering their full range of benefits)
  4. reviewing the role that developer charges play in planning for new developments.

Australian, State and Territory Governments should enhance the National Water Initiative to align with recommendations 6.4 (a) to 6.4 (d)

To find out more or make a submission visit

https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/current/water-reform/draft

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