Friday, 16 September 2011

National Water Commission urges COAG to stay the distance on water reform

The National Water Commission has released its comprehensive assessment of water reform progress in Australia, calling on governments to stay the distance on their reform commitments.

Launching the report today, Commission Chair Ms Chloe Munro said, 'This independent report shows that actions under the National Water Initiative have made water use more efficient, sustainable and secure - and this helped Australians weather the worst drought on record.'

'States and territories have put rules in place for how water is shared, providing clearer directions for communities, industries and the environment - regardless of whether water is scarce or plentiful.

'Water trading has given farmers welcome options to buy and sell water as they need, depending on seasonal conditions and commodity prices.

'We've seen governments step in to buy water for the environment. That has put cash into communities as well as being a cost effective way to return much needed water to precious wetlands.

'Better planning decisions are being made because more is known about Australia's water resources - and about the important connections between surface water and groundwater.
'Our cities and towns have more options for water supply and better water security than they did a decade ago.

'However', warned Ms Munro, 'just because rain gave parts of the country a reprieve by refilling dams and replenishing rivers, that doesn't mean we can afford to stop the clock on reform.

'Governments have not yet met their commitments to give rivers and wetlands a fair share of water. This means the goal of sustainable water management has not been reached.

'Persisting with efforts to improve water management will lock in the hard-won gains and insure Australia against future risks, whether from floods or the inevitable return to drought', said Ms Munro.

'And it will allow governments and communities to deal with increasing competition for water from growing populations and booming resources industries such as mining and coal seam gas.'

In its 12 recommendations to COAG, the National Water Commission has urged governments to show renewed leadership, listen to local knowledge and take communities with them as they decide how to balance economic, social and environmental demands.

The Commission has suggested it's time to step up the pace on urban water challenges and deliver more liveable cities. It has also backed much needed investments in science and skills, and proposed incentives to spur action.

Other recommendations call for water reform objectives to be better coordinated with important policy areas, such as energy and resources, regional development, natural resources management and climate change adaption strategies.

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