The Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) has responded to reforms posed in Infrastructure Australia’s 2021 Infrastructure Australia Plan, joining the Productivity Commission in calling for a renewed and modernised National Water Initiative and calling on all governments to progress water related recommendations from the Plan

WSAA has welcomed the release of the Plan, which outlines a 15-year roadmap to improve the resilience and sustainability of essential infrastructure, including urban water.

The 2021 Plan responds to the 180 infrastructure challenges and opportunities identified in Infrastructure Australia’s 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit, and sets out detailed recommendations to deliver better infrastructure for all Australians.

The 2021 Plan includes Waste and Social Infrastructure for the first time, alongside Energy, Transport, Telecommunications, and Water. 

It also focuses on three cross-cutting key themes: Place (Cities, Regions, Rural and Remote Areas, and Northern Australia), Sustainability and Resilience, and the Infrastructure Industry.

The water related plans focus on creating resilient, secure and quality water supplies available for all Australians, to create attractive, liveable and resilient communities.

The Plan also acknowledges the need for consistent and reliable water and wastewater services in remote communities. 

The WSAA said that, after Australia experienced two of the worst droughts recorded in recent history, they believe it is time to update the national water plan.

Key water-related takeaways from the Plan are:

  • Consistent approaches to measuring water security risk to significantly improve governance of Australia’s water resources, supporting transparent and reliable decision-making that addresses the needs of local communities
  • Stronger planning processes enabled by water security information to support better health and environmental outcomes, with reduced frequency and intensity of water shortages, enhancing community sustainability and unlocking social benefits
  • Implementing a consistent approach to assessing water needs and measuring water security risk to help ensure regional, remote and rural communities have comparable levels of quality and access to services
  • Prioritising water investments based on more accurate assessment of water security risk to improve the reliability of services that support economic productivity for both communities and businesses; in the long-term, this can improve affordability by reducing expenditure on reactive activities and improving efficiency

WSAA Executive Director, Adam Lovell, said, “We welcome Infrastructure Australia’s 2021 Plan and its focus on delivering resilient and adaptable infrastructure for a stronger Australia, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“WSAA is pleased to see the comprehensive Water Chapter in the Plan and supports the recommendations on the development of a renewed National Water Initiative incorporating a national approach to water security,” Mr Lovell said. 

Mr Lovell said that the Plan outlines how critical water is to cities and communities in contributing to liveable and healthy environments, and as a key economic enabler. 

Mr Lovell also said the WSAA was pleased to see recognition that the water industry is uniquely exposed to pressures from climate change, and as an industry seeking to accelerate responses through mitigation and adaptation measures, as the transition to a net zero future begins. 

“We note there are challenges, including ensuring that all options for water supply are on the table. We will continue to advocate for the consideration of all safe, climate‑resilient and economically efficient sources to be discussed with communities when planning future water supplies,” Mr Lovell said. 

“We agree that given the critical role of water in creating prosperous and liveable places, it needs to be better valued with a national focus and a renewed National Water Initiative with independent oversight. In addition, we support the recommendations in the Plan to prioritise a whole-of-water-cycle management approach including establishing a national stormwater management framework.” 

WSAA said it supports the call for better servicing of remote communities and the role that collaborative arrangements can play, particularly in communities with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.

The urban water industry in Australia already plays a role in the circular economy and seeks to increase awareness of its broader role in communities, through contribution to resource recovery and blue and green infrastructure to enhance quality of life.

WSAA congratulated Infrastructure Australia on the release of the Plan and the associated suite of documents, in particular the addition of chapters for Waste and Social Infrastructure. 

The 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan is available here.

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