Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) have called for change to current urban water management.
The two organisations have combined to present a report to the Commonwealth Government calling for water to be made a priority.
The report focuses on improving infrastructure, regulatory framework and making water and wastewater management more of a focus in general, not just after a crisis.
IPA Chief Executive, Brendan Lyon, said that, “Water and wastewater are as fundamental to cities as transport systems and hospitals – managing over $150billion worth of assets – but water only gets focus when there is a crisis,”
“Our report says that with good national leadership and good structures, Australia could avoid future price shocks as it meets the challenges of population growth, renewing aging infrastructure and managing extreme events through climate change. Water is fundamental to life and health, so it will always be fixed; it’s just a question of how much it costs.”
WSAA’s Executive Director, Adam Lovell, said, “Australian’s enjoy world class water and wastewater services and water utilities are focussing on driving increased customer value and affordable bills. But to continue do that the regulatory and governance structures they operate in need to be refreshed to promote the long term interests of customers.
“Urban water needs to be better integrated in city planning including coordinated integration of stormwater to meet community expectations of our highly valued liveable cities and communities. We will follow with keen interest the development of Infrastructure Australia’s new plan.”
Mr Lyon and Mr Lovell agree that the early emergence of competition in the water industry can bring benefits for customers and stimulate further innovation. However, they say that the frameworks are not in place to facilitate new entrants or provide the necessary safeguards for customers. NSW and Victoria have shown leadership in these areas, but with very different structure around the country, a consistent national regulatory framework is clearly required.
“Water utilities are state owned and regulated, but face national problems, with national impacts meaning there’s a practical need for national government leadership to drive good reform,” Mr Lyon and Mr Lovell said.
“We are calling on the Commonwealth to drive a new five-year program of reform across the states and territories, supported by meaningful financial incentives and including a new national water Initiative.
“We’ve suggested that the Australian Council for Competition Policy recommended by the Harper Review would be the right national agency to lead urban water policy, given that solutions rely on good market structures.”
Read the full report here.