1 April 2024

Your views invited to update National Water Initiative

| Chris Johnson
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Consultation has opened to help update the National Water Initiative, which was first signed 20 years ago. Photo: Andy Lowes.

Consultation has opened on a new framework to underpin the sustainable management of Australia’s water resources.

The Federal Government wants an updated National Water Initiative to better prepare the nation for times of drought.

The existing agreement between all Australian governments was first signed 20 years ago.

While the government agrees that it helped drive sustainable water management practices across the country, it says much has changed since the agreement’s inception.

Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek said the current agreement between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments was now outdated, seeing that it was agreed in 2004 – before some of the country’s most severe droughts and floods.

She said that since the first agreement, governments had learned much more about the effects of climate change and how it would exacerbate extreme weather, which, combined with increasing demand for water, would challenge the ability to provide reliable water supplies.

“As water becomes an increasingly contested resource, it is vital we have plans in place to support our communities, industry, and the environment that relies on it,” the Minister said.

“A renewed National Water Initiative will provide an extra level of confidence for communities that our precious water resources are efficiently managed in the face of climate change.

“We are also entrenching an ongoing commitment to First Nations voices in water management, ensuring the needs and aspirations of First Nations communities are integral to water planning in our country.”

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Ms Plibersek said the new agreement would better draw on and recognise the holistic, sustainable approach Indigenous Australians had to water.

“I think it gives us a really good opportunity to work with the states and territories to update our expectations about … making sure that we’ve got enough water and good-quality water for all of the uses that we have for water – the human uses, the agricultural and industrial uses, and of course our environmental needs,” she said in a media interview.

“It means that we can look at climate-resilient water management, much more evidence-based decision-making, and of course really transparent and strategic water investments rather than, you know, a scattergun approach to a dam here or a weir there.

“We need to be working together with the states and territories to make the most of the water resources that we have …

“The very reason that we’re doing this upgraded approach is because so much has changed in the 20 years since the first National Water Initiative … the Productivity Commission has looked at the way that we allocate water in Australia.

“That is one of the most important inputs to this new work, taking what the Productivity Commission has found about the way the Commonwealth Government and the states and territories manage water resources, and using that work to make sure we make better decisions in the future.”

The aim is for the new national water agreement to continue to support consistency across states and territories, while focusing on strengthening the connection between climate science and water planning.

The consultation opened on Thursday (28 March) and anyone can have a say on the future of Australia’s water security and the new agreement by visiting the department’s website.

Views are being sought on the proposed objectives and outcomes that a new agreement might include, and what elements of the 2004 National Water Initiative should be included in the proposed agreement.

Contributions to the consultation can be made by completing its online survey, submitting a written response, or giving a video or audio response.

Original Article published by Chris Johnson on Riotact.

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