Water resource management is a State and Territory responsibility. In 1994, in recognition of the national significance of sustainable water resource management, the Council of Australian Governments initiated the National Water Reform Framework. Based a set of key principles the reform specifically aims to make provision of water for the environment. Establishing environmental water provisions is an area of developing science that requires a multi-disciplinary approach and is at various stages of implementation and sophistication across Australia.
Key elements of the National Water Reform Framework * include:
- Pricing based on principles of full-cost recovery and transparency (or removal) of cross subsidies;
- Future investment in new irrigation schemes, or extensions to existing schemes, to be undertaken only after appraisal indicates it is economically viable and ecologically sustainable
- Comprehensive systems of water allocations or entitlements, backed by separation of water property rights from land and clear specification of entitlements in terms of ownership, volume, reliability, transferability and, if appropriate, quality;
- formal determination of water allocations or entitlements, including allocations for the environment as a legitimate user of water;
- trading, including cross-border sales, of water allocations and entitlements, within the social, physical, and ecological constraints of catchments;
- providing an integrated catchment management approach to water resource management;
- the separation of resource management, standard setting and regulatory roles of government, from the role of providing water services;
- a greater degree of responsibility for local management of irrigation areas;
- public education about water use and consultation in implementing the water reforms; and
- appropriate water related research and use of efficient technologies.
* High Level Steering Group on Water brochure September 1999
The National Water Reform process is linked to a series of tranche payments. All States and Territories must demonstrate progress against the objectives and key result areas of the Reform Framework. All State and Territory water management agencies are working towards meeting these requirements through legislation, planning and assessment processes (e.g. stream-flow management plans, stressed rivers programs, riparian vegetation management and nutrient management strategies). In June 1999 the National Competition Council completed the second tranche assessment of governments' progress with implementing National Competition Policy and related reforms. NCC publications including the first and second tranche assessment material, as well as the NCP agreements, are available from the National Competition Council.
More commentary on water resource management challenges and opportunities are provided at the State/Territory and individual Basin or Groundwater Management Unit level.
More information about the reform process can be obtained from Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Australia.
Select a Surface Water Mangagement Area on the map to find out more about the area:
The emphasis of water resource management policies within south-east Australia has shifted from the development of infrastructure to more efficient use of existing infrastructure within a framework of sustainability. The last decade has seen little water resource infrastructure development when compared with the previous 50 years.
Development is in differing phases throughout Australia. In the Murray-Darling Basin, it was recognised in 1995 that further increases in diversions were not environmentally sustainable and were eroding the security of supply for existing users. For these two reasons, a Cap on diversions (but not development) was introduced in the Murray-Darling Basin at this time. Water resource development is approaching its extraction limits in the southern States (especially Victoria, NSW and South Australia). Development opportunities in the Victoria and New South Wales principally entail moving water to higher value uses through water trade and realising water efficiency gains through improvements to infrastructure and methods of water use. Development opportunities are still to be fully assessed in tropical Australia.
Efficiency gains have not yet been realised to any large degree across Australia's water users. Enormous potential exists for efficiency gains in use within the agricultural sector, particularly through minimising supply system losses and moving to more targeted methods of application such as trickle irrigation. Policy is supporting these changes by implementing cost recovery and water trading mechanisms.
Urban water authorities in all States and Territories have introduced two-part tariffs and full cost recovery is being implemented in most areas. This has yielded efficiency gains across most of Australia's major cities.
One of the limiting factors to development of new groundwater resources is the salinity level. As demonstrated in the Officer Basin (Western Australia) - while having an extremely large reserve of water (an estimated 4,000 years supply) - water quality and cost of extraction/treatment will ultimately determine how or if this resource is developed.
The ratings presented here refer to the potential for increased use of water within the surface water management area. The ratings do not reflect the significant potential for increased water-based economic activity that is available via water trading and via water savings achieved through efficiency gains (refer to individual basin pages and State Overview Reports for more information on the 'economic' development potential).
More commentary on development opportunities is provided at the State/Territory and individual Basin or Groundwater Management Unit level.
To navigate to State/Territory water resources management and development information use the top menu to select the region of interest.
- Further introductory information about water resources is available for each State and Territory:
- Australian Capital Territory
- New South Wales
- Northern Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia
- Australian Water Resources Assessment 2000 report
- Link to data available for download on the:
- Link to the Map Maker to make a map using this information.
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