Policy and programs

Water policy and programs

Water for the Future is a long term initiative to secure the water supply of all Australians. The National Water Initiative and The Water Act 2007 are vital elements of Water for the Future.

Rural water

Australian Government Response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Australia's Report Of drought and flooding rains: Inquiry into the impact of the Guide to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in Regional Australia

The Australian Government's response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Australia's Report Of Drought and Flooding Rains: Inquiry into the impact of the Guide to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in Regional Australia was tabled in Parliament on Thursday 24 November 2011. This Inquiry was chaired by Mr Tony Windsor MP.

The Committee's report highlighted community concern for a better balance between consumptive use of water and water for the environment.

The Government has agreed to a number of measures to help ensure the Government's reforms deliver a healthy river system, sustainable food and fibre production, and strong communities.

Driving Reform in the Basin

The Driving Reform in the Basin program supports Australian Government contributions to the operation and water reform functions of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority , including those under the Water Act 2007. It also gives the National Water Commission  and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission  specific roles and functions under the Water Act.

Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure

The Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure program (SRWUIP) is a $5.8 billion national program investing in key rural water use, management and efficiency projects including improved knowledge and market reform. Currently, $5.3 billion of the program funds is committed in the Murray-Darling Basin.

The aim of the program is to improve efficiency and productivity of rural water use and management, to deliver substantial and lasting water returns to the environment and to help secure a long-term and sustainable future for irrigated agriculture through value for money projects.

Water savings achieved through SRWUIP will be shared between the environment and irrigators and regional communities. Water savings transferred to the Commonwealth Environment Water Holder for environmental use will contribute substantially towards 'bridging the gap' to the new Sustainable Diversion Limits under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan .

For more information on the SRWUIP water recovery progress see: Progress towards meeting environmental needs under the Basin Plan

Restoring the Balance in the Murray Darling Basin (water entitlement buyback)

The Restoring the Balance in the Murray-Darling Basin Program is an important component of the Water for the Future initiative. The Australian Government has committed the $3.1 billion to the Restoring the Balance in the Murray-Darling Basin program to purchase water for the environment plus the $310 million per year from 2010-15 from water buyback if that is needed. The Government is committed to 'bridging the gap' between what has been returned to the environment, and what needs to be returned to the environment as determined by the independent Murray-Darling Basin Authority. This will be achieved through a combination of improvements in the health of the Basin's rivers, wetlands and floodplains.

Water in our environment

Commonwealth Environmental Water

The Water Act 2007 establishes arrangements for the management of the water entitlements that the Commonwealth acquires. These water entitlements will be used to protect or restore environmental assets such as wetlands and streams. Further information is available at the Commonwealth environmental water homepage.


Wetlands are vital to Australia. They protect our shores from wave action, reduce the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and provide critical habitat for animals and plants.

River Health

River health is a crucial component of the sustainable management of our rivers, wetlands and groundwater basins.

Living Murray Initiative

The Living Murray Initiative was established to help improve the health of the River Murray, with a focus on six icon sites that are internationally significant wetlands supporting a rich biodiversity. The program is managed by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority

Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative

The Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative provides funding to accelerate work on the repair of uncontrolled artesian bores and the replacement of wasteful open earthen bore drains with piped reticulation systems through the Great Artesian Basin.

Lake Eyre Basin

The Lake Eyre Basin is one of the world's largest internally draining systems covering about 1.2 million square kilometres, almost one-sixth of Australia.

Water in cities and towns

Policy and reform in the area of urban water

The Australian Government, together with states and territories, is undertaking a range of actions to progress urban water reforms. These will assist to secure urban water supplies, use water wisely, address the challenges of climate change and support healthy rivers.

Urban Water Stakeholder Reference Panel

The Urban Water Stakeholder Reference Panel provides advice on the implementation of the Australian Government's Water for the Future urban water programs.

National Urban Water and Desalination Plan

The National Urban Water and Desalination Plan is helping major towns and cities to secure their water supplies and reduce their reliance on rainfall dependent sources by supporting infrastructure projects and research in desalination, water recycling and stormwater harvesting and reuse.

National Water Security Plan for Cities and Towns

The National Water Security Plan for Cities and Towns is providing funding to cities and towns with fewer than 50,000 people to upgrade older water systems, install new infrastructure and support practical projects that save water or reduce water losses.

Water Efficiency Opportunities

The objectives of the Water Efficiency Opportunities Program is to support and encourage water efficiency in the commercial and industrial sectors of the community.

Strengthening Basin Communities

The Strengthening Basin Communities program is assisting local governments in the Murray-Darling Basin plan for reduced water availability and deliver associated local water saving initiatives

Water Smart Australia

Water Smart Australia aims to accelerate the development and uptake of smart technologies and practices in water use across Australia.

Green Precincts

The Green Precincts Fund supports project initiatives that encourage water and energy savings measures at the community level.

Water efficiency labelling and standards (WELS)

The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards scheme labels a range of household products for their water efficiency, helping individuals to choose products such as washing machines, dishwashers, taps, showers and toilets to save water and money. The website, www.waterrating.gov.au  also provides advice to plumbers, retailers, manufacturers, builders, architects and local governments on WELS requirements, registration, legislation, compliance and enforcement.

Water quality

Water of adequate quality and quantity is central to the integrity of the environment. It is essential to our agricultural enterprises, even to our ability to ensure we have sufficient drinking water to supply our needs. The focus on our water resources is often on the volume of water available for particular purposes. However, water quality determines the suitability of water for a particular purpose.

Managing water quality requires a catchment-based approach as land uses have a major effect on the quality of water resources.

A concerted effort by land managers, industry, catchment groups, the community, environmental groups and Australian, state/territory and local governments is required to protect the quality of our water resources.

Volunteers water monitoring

Water quality in Australia

The National Water Quality Management Strategy (NWQMS) provides the information and tools to help communities manage their water resources to meet current and future needs. It provides policies, a process and a series of national guidelines for water quality management.

The Water Quality Management Framework includes a step-by-step approach to planning, implementing and managing water quality for your area, plus information about common environmental stressors.

Water Quality Improvement Plans (WQIPs) identify the most cost-effective and timely projects for investment by all parties including the Australian Government, State and Local Governments, and community and environment groups.

The Tasmanian River Catchment Water Quality Initiative built on existing river catchment auditing and monitoring work to provide information in response to community concerns about pesticide use and the potential impact of pesticide pollution on the environment, human health and industry.

Water information

National Water Knowledge and Research Platform

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to the development of a National Water Knowledge and Research Platform. The purpose of the Platform is to allow for key decisions on water policy, management and use in Australia to be based on best available and continuously improving knowledge and information.

Improving Water Information

Improving Water Information  provides additional funding to the Bureau of Meteorology to accurately monitor, assess and forecast the availability, condition and use of our water resources.

Sustainable Yields project

Via the Sustainable Yields project, the Australian Government has commissioned the CSIRO to undertake assessments to provide robust estimates of current and future water availability in the Murray-Darling Basin and as well as Tasmania, Western Australia and northern Australia. The results of these assessments will provide the science to help underpin the sustainable planning and management of water resources.

Northern Australia Water Futures Assessment

The objective of the Northern Australia Water Futures Assessment is to provide an enduring knowledge base to inform decisions about development of northern Australia's water resources.

National Water Market System

The Australian Government is working with the state and territory governments to develop a National Water Market System (NWMS) that will improve the efficiency of water registers, transaction and market information functions.

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