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National Water Reform 2020

Inquiry report

This report was sent to Government on 28 May 2021 and publicly released on 2 September 2021.

The report assesses the progress of the Australian, State and Territory governments since 2017 towards achieving the objectives and outcomes of the National Water Initiative (NWI). It also provides practical advice to Australian governments on future directions for national water reform through renewal of the NWI.

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  • Contents
  • Preliminaries: Cover, Copyright, Letter of transmittal, Contents, Acknowledgments and Abbreviations
  • Executive summary
    • Reform advice on NWI renewal
  • Chapter 1 About the inquiry
    • 1.1 Context for the inquiry
    • 1.2 The Commission’s task
    • 1.3 The Commission’s approach
    • 1.4 Conduct of the inquiry
  • Chapter 2 Progress against the NWI and the case for continuing reform
    • 2.1 Overview of the NWI reform agenda
    • 2.2 Summary of progress against the agreement
    • 2.3 Reforms have contributed to sizeable benefits
    • 2.4 But the case for further reform is compelling
    • 2.5 In summary: the case for renewed reform effort is convincing
  • Chapter 3 NWI renewal: a refreshed intent
    • 3.1 Why a national approach to water reform?
    • 3.2 A modernised goal
    • 3.3 Modernised overarching objectives
    • 3.4 Modernised detailed objectives
    • 3.5 Foundations set in overarching principles
    • 3.6 Key elements
    • 3.7 Updated acknowledgement of other initiatives
  • Chapter 4 Building in good governance for a renewed NWI
    • 4.1 The NWI’s governance architecture has been significantly eroded
    • 4.2 Characteristics of leading practice governance
    • 4.3 A modernised agreement structure
    • 4.4 Organisational ‘best-fit’ for governance functions
    • 4.5 Incentivising reform
    • 4.6 Greater transparency in NWI governance
  • Chapter 5 Water resource management — a fit-for-purpose framework
  • Chapter 6 Water entitlements and planning
    • 6.1 Room for improvement in entitlements regimes
    • 6.2 Improvement in water planning
  • Chapter 7 Water trading and markets
    • 7.1 Trading has delivered significant net benefits
    • 7.2 More detailed principles for stronger markets
    • 7.3 Creating the foundations for leading practice
  • Chapter 8 Environmental management
    • 8.1 Progress on providing water for the environment
    • 8.2 Requirements for achieving agreed outcomes in all systems
    • 8.3 Additional requirements in systems with held water
    • 8.4 Water system managers should use their best endeavours to achieve agreed outcomes
    • 8.5 Effective monitoring, evaluation and reporting
  • Chapter 9 Securing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s interests in water
    • 9.1 Understanding of Traditional Owners’ aspirations has evolved since the NWI was drafted
    • 9.2 A new policy element developed through co-design
    • 9.3 Achieving cultural outcomes through enhancing the influence of Traditional Owners in water management
    • 9.4 Enabling access to water for economic use
  • Chapter 10 Ensuring the integrity of water resource management
    • 10.1 Confidence in water management has been tested
    • 10.2 A framework for trusted and credible water resource management
    • 10.3 Ensuring integrity in water use
    • 10.4 Ensuring the integrity of water system management
    • 10.5 Building understanding of the broader water context
  • Chapter 11 Provision of water services
    • 11.1 Background on water service provision
    • 11.2 Pricing and institutional arrangements in a renewed NWI
  • Chapter 12 Urban water services
    • 12.1 Australia has seen significant urban water reform
    • 12.2 Much has been achieved but the case for further action is clear
    • 12.3 NWI renewal is an opportunity to embed the foundations of success
    • 12.4 Best-practice system planning
    • 12.5 Pricing and service outcomes — another focus
    • 12.6 Additional tailored advice for regional and remote urban water services
  • Chapter 13 Water reform in rural Australia
    • 13.1 NWI-consistent reforms have delivered large benefits to rural users
    • 13.2 Reforms have also prepared water users to address future challenges
    • 13.3 A renewed NWI would lock in past benefits and enable adaptation
    • 13.4 Community adjustment to lower water availability
  • Chapter 14 Government investment in major water infrastructure
    • 14.1 The NWI targets economically viable and ecologically sustainable infrastructure
    • 14.2 Some past government commitments raise red flags
    • 14.3 NWI renewal can contribute to improved decision making
  • Chapter 15 Community engagement
    • 15.1 The NWI has facilitated engagement but an update is needed
    • 15.2 Embedding effective practice through a renewed NWI
  • Chapter 16 Knowledge, capacity and capability building
    • 16.1 Knowledge generation needs attention
    • 16.2 Use of knowledge also needs to be optimised
  • Appendix A Terms of Reference
  • Appendix B Glossary
  • Appendix C Inquiry conduct and participants
  • References

Printed copies

Printed copies of this report can be purchased from Canprint Communications.

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