The Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) is prioritising digital asset management and critical infrastructure security with the launch of two key projects.

Digital asset management

WSAA has recently formed the Digital Asset Taskforce to accelerate the implementation of digital asset management by water businesses nationally.

The taskforce has started by developing the foundation of a digital asset strategy and is looking at options to achieve consistency in data definitions and standards for the industry.

Implementing an effective digital asset strategy is seen as a key starting point for effective implementation of digital approaches to asset management, starting from engaging with the executive team and formulating a business-wide approach to implementation. 

The taskforce has evaluated options for developing a digital strategy and was unanimous in its support for the Victorian Digital Asset Strategy (VDAS) as a valuable playbook for the development and implementation of a digital strategy for the water industry. 

WSAA said it would recommend that any utility embarking on its digital asset journey to read this document. 

Data and data classification for assets are essential to share data easily within water businesses and external organisations. 

To assist in this area, the taskforce is looking to work with Uniclass, who manage an international approach to data classification at a high level. 

The group also saw value in working with an Australia specification, funded out of Victoria, called the Virtual Buildings Information System (VBIS).

It is more detailed, but readily integrates with the Uniclass classification scheme and has been trialled with water and other infrastructure sectors. 

Both systems are relatively mature, and WSAA is seeking to ensure greater usability for water businesses.

Critical infrastructure security

WSAA is also coordinating a national response to the Home Affairs consultation paper on Protecting Critical Infrastructure and Systems of National Significance with the Water Services Sector Group (WSSG) and other peak bodies.

The paper proposes a significant increase in powers for Home Affairs to address matters relating to cyber, physical, personnel and supply chain security risks. It places increased obligations on owners of critical infrastructure of national significance.

These obligations include:

  1. A Positive Security Obligation to set and enforce baseline protections for critical infrastructure through sector-specific standards proportionate to risk
  2. Enhanced cyber security obligations
  3. Government assistance (including last resort step in powers) for entities that are the target or victim of a cyber attack

Home Affairs is also looking at reform of the Trusted Information Sharing Network (TISN), including the WSSG.

All organisations covered by the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act will be subject to the new framework, with discussion currently in progress about the criteria for including other water businesses, particularly whether this should be all businesses with more than 50,000 property connections or other criteria.

The government assistance aspects are proposed to apply to all entities regardless of size that manage stormwater, sewage, drinking water, recycled water and raw water.

WSAA has sent a request for information to the Managing Directors and CEOs of water businesses with more than 50,000 property connections.

Input to WSAA’s submission is due before 8 September 2020 and submissions to Home Affairs are due by 16 September.

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