03 May 2024

Submission to the National Water Agreement consultation

ATSE welcomes a consultation on a future National Water Agreement. We support the inclusion of themes for water quality, climate change and population growth, transparency in decision-making, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement.

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The ambition of a National Water Agreement (NWA) is to navigate the complex water landscape to secure economic, environmental, health and social outcomes underpinned by secure water supplies of suitable quality. ATSE welcomes the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water (the Department) consultation on a future National Water Agreement. ATSE supports the draft objectives’ inclusion of themes for water quality, climate change and population growth, transparency in decision-making, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement.

ATSE has engaged with the Productivity Commission on its review of the National Water Initiative (NWI), having provided an initial submission and a subsequent submission on its Interim Report. We have mapped these views to the objectives in the Department’s Discussion paper and noted strong alignment. ATSE encourages the Department and the Productivity Commission to connect these parallel activities and take note of the ATSE’s position in each submission.

Recommendation 1: Establish new national leadership for implementing and monitoring the National Water Agreement, via a renewed National Water Initiative, including structures to transparently uphold the principles of the NWA, designing the role of government, governance, and institutions to lead and deliver the objectives and outcomes.

Recommendation 2: Re-establish, evolve and resource a National Water Commission to provide a nationally- recognised body for assertively driving water reform and improving water management.

Recommendation 3: Apply an Environment / Social / Governance (ESG) framework, as the foundation of an agreement that enables and legitimises the participation of industry and communities in water reform and water management, as well as evidence-based monitoring of performance against global commitments.

Recommendation 4: Incorporate an individual objective in an NWA for urban water that recognises its pivotal role in secure, productive, and resilient communities and outlines a vision for urban water reform and better management of urban water resources.

Recommendation 5: Incorporate an objective in an NWA to enhance water security to support a sustainable, productive, and resilient Australia, and commit to developing and transparently publishing science-based indicators of environmental health.

Recommendation 6: Add outcomes for investing in water management technologies and a skilled water management workforce.

Recommendation 7: Prioritise knowledge generation, including through investing in digital technologies, enabling data-driven decisions and investments.

Recommendation 8: Review the consultation timeline and seek feedback from key stakeholders on its appropriateness given the fundamental nature of water to a productive and resilient Australia.

Recommendation 9: Consider ATSE’s proposed revised set of objectives for Figure 1.2 of the Discussion Paper.


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