Nation’s water blueprint must evolve to remain effective

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority has advised the Productivity Commission the National Water Initiative must change to reflect new information and lessons learnt so Australia’s water resources, including those in the Basin, can continue to support Australia’s communities, ecosystems, industries and First Nations people.

Chief Executive of the MDBA, Phillip Glyde said the submission to the Productivity Commission’s water reform inquiry outlines key challenges learnt through the Basin experience that must be addressed for successful future water management.

“Given our independent role in overseeing and reporting on the roll out of the Basin Plan over the past eight years, we’re in a unique position to clearly see the challenges facing water management across the Basin and Australia more broadly,” Mr Glyde said.

“There are some real and emerging challenges and water management arrangements must evolve now to respond to several complex issues.”

The MDBA is calling for a future National Water Initiative to consider a range of key lessons including the need for:

  • strong compliance, including in the regulation of water markets
  • an increase to First Nations’ access to water
  • climate change adaptation in all policies and management frameworks
  • better capability building to help all water users navigate the system
  • investment in science and monitoring of system condition and
  • water management to be complemented by whole-of-system policies.

“The climate is changing more rapidly than predicted, water markets are evolving quicker than some players can keep up, and there is a strong need for inclusive and transparent decision making.

“Despite government commitment, First Nations’ access to water and participation in management is lagging. We need to be moving beyond just the ‘recognition’ of needs, to having First Nations peoples’ needs actually included and given parity alongside the needs of other stakeholders.

“The MDBA is improving transparency and providing more information to communities. We are also collaborating closely with First Nations groups, but we need the backing of a stronger National Water Initiative to set the improvement agenda, so all governments make better headway.”

The National Water Initiative is the national blueprint for water reform and was agreed in 2004 by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

Treasurer the Hon Joshua Frydenberg MP requested the Productivity Commission undertake an Inquiry into progress with the reform of Australia’s water resources sector, with a particular emphasis on the progress of all Australian governments in achieving the objectives, outcomes and timelines anticipated under the Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Water Initiative (NWI).

The MDBA’s submission can be found on our submissions page.

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