7 April 2011 – The National Water Commission’s report on the future of urban water puts the sector back on the national policy agenda according to the Australian Water Association’s Chief Executive Officer, Tom Mollenkopf.

Mr Mollenkopf  said  focus must be on the core areas that will deliver real value to the community – the economy and the environment.

In an AWA statement the CEO said “We cannot risk being complacent on water issues simply because our dams are filling in the eastern states.”

“We are fortunate in Australia to have an urban water sector that is the envy of many developed nations around the world. It is precisely because we are constantly innovating and seeking the next opportunity for improvement that we are so well regarded.”

But he warned that the water sector and the nation risks suffering reform fatigue. “There have been extensive reforms and numerous reports over recent years – indeed the Productivity Commission will be releasing its report next week on urban water. Government must be strategic and targeted in its future reform efforts.

“Moreover, we should be careful not to forget where the biggest water management issues remain unresolved – in the rural water sector and environmental flows.”

The NWC’s main recommendations are:

  • A national statement of objectives for the future direction of the urban water sector
  • The sector should provide secure, safe, healthy and reliable water-related services to urban communities in an economically efficient and sustainable manner.
  • The sector should understand and meet the long-term interests of all water consumers in the price, quality, safety, reliability and security of supply of fit-for-purpose water and wastewater services through the efficient use of, and investment in, systems, assets and resources.
  • to protect public health and the environment by ensuring that the impacts of the sector’s operations and investments are managed
  • to enhance its effective contribution to more liveable, sustainable and economically prosperous cities in circumstances where broader social, public health and environmental benefits and costs are clearly defined and assessed, or where customers or other parties are willing or explicitly obliged to pay for the outcomes.

To fulfil these objectives, the sector would have the following characteristics:

  • Resilient—sufficient capacity to withstand external shocks to the system as a whole (such as those associated with the impacts of climate change).
  • Flexible—identifying and responding to changing and diverse customer and community needs in timely way.
  • Efficient—responding to incentives to deliver maximum overall benefit at least overall cost.
  • Transparent—building and maintaining a proactive culture of complete openness to stakeholders and the public about performance and decision making.
  • Accountable—being held responsible for clearly defined objectives and provided with rewards for good performance and sanctions for poor performance.
  • Customer-focused—not simply providing least-cost services, but understanding and meeting the diverse needs of all customers in and providing value for money.

To see the report go to https://www.nwc.gov.au/resources/documents/Future_directions.pdf