The Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) has called for renewed government commitment to national leadership for water following the release of the Senate Environment and Communications Committee Report on the National Water Commission (Abolition) Bill 2014.

With many areas of eastern Australia in drought conditions, proposals for the development of water resources across northern Australia, indigenous water issues, and ongoing affordability concerns in cities and towns, WSAA argues that Australia needs an independent umpire holding all governments and the industry itself to account for sustainable water management.

“WSAA spoke against the Abolition Bill when it was referred to Senate Environment and Communications Committee on the basis that the urban water industry faces future challenges which require national leadership and an expanded National Water Initiative,” said Adam Lovell, WSAA’s Executive Director.

“There is too much unfinished business in managing Australia’s water, across cities, towns, agriculture, and the resources sector,” said Mr Lovell.

“Addressing the challenges of the future requires an improved regulatory framework, a continuing focus on the long term interest of customers, and a better environment for private investment in water. The National Water Initiative – agreed to by all states and territories – is the appropriate platform to continue to build upon. However, with no custodian for the National Water Initiative, who will collaborate and maintain a constant vigilance and leadership role?” asked Mr Lovell.

It is significant that the Competition Policy Review Panel, also known as the Harper Review, in its draft report released in September 2014, also argues that there is a need to re‐commit to a national framework for water focusing on economic regulation. The Panel also views water infrastructure reform as unfinished business.

“Along with many stakeholders involved in water management in Australia, including the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, we are disappointed that the National Water Commission, set up with bipartisan support in 2006, is proposed to be abolished. We note that there were a range of dissenting reports from Committee members outlining the need for ongoing national leadership for water.”

With the bill now due to go before the Senate, WSAA seeks the Government’s commitment to elevating water management as critical to sustainable economic growth, through COAG and maintaining an independent umpire and custodian for the National Water Initiative.

The water sector is critical to Australia’s economy, society, and environment. It provides healthy, safe and reliable water and wastewater services that support Australia’s high standards of living and underpin its economic success.

WSAA is the peak body representing the urban water industry in Australia. Its members provide water and wastewater services to over 20 million Australians, including many of Australia’s largest industrial and commercial enterprises.

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