As most parts of the country remain parched in the clutches of one of the most severe droughts on record, there is at least no shortage of water reforms from the Commonwealth and State Governments, as policy makers struggle to achieve better management of this precious resource.
Summary of recent and proposed water reforms
Establishing a new Commonwealth 'Office of Water Resources' to provide and coordinate policy advice across Commonwealth Government agencies and liaise with State Governments
Facilitating private sector involvement in water supply
Water Industry Competition Bill 2006
Establishing a Central Coast Water Corporation
Central Coast Water Corporation Bill 2006
Prescribing various matters for the purposes of the Water Industry Act 1994 (VIC), including regulating the discharge of 'trade waste' through mandating compliance with trade waste agreements
Water Industry Regulations 2006
Making consequential amendments to the existing Water Regulation 2002 (QLD)
Water Amendment Regulation (No. 7) 2006
National Water Initiative - water funding continues to flow
Meanwhile, Commonwealth funding under the Australian Government Water Fund (Water Fund) is continuing to flow to state and local government projects.
The Water Fund
The Water Fund is a $2 billion Commonwealth Government program established in 2004 to invest in water infrastructure and improve water management throughout the nation. The Water Fund is intended to support practical state and local government water projects, which aim to improve water efficiency and environmental management.
The fund is administered under three separate programs to facilitate projects that help achieve the objectives and outcomes of the Commonwealth's National Water Initiative. The programs are:
Water Smart Australia
Raising National Water Standards
Community Water Grants.
Water Smart Australia Program
The Water Smart Australia Program was established to accelerate the development and use of new technology and practices associated with water use across Australia. Under this Program, the National Water Commission has approximately $1.6 billion to administer over five years until 2010.
The Water Smart AustraliaProgram is targeted at large scale infrastructure projects with a minimum funding level of $1 million per project.
The first round of funding occurred in May 2005, with proposals for the second round of funding having closed on 16 June 2006. Approved projects from the second funding round are yet to be announced.
Projects that have received funding to date include:
A grant for the Epsom Spring Gully Recycled Water Pipeline, which will connect to the Bendigo Water Reclamation Plant and realise the potential of regional reclaimed water in rural Victoria.
A 50/50 joint Commonwealth/State feasibility study of options to improve water supply and management of the Murray River in New South Wales.
The partial funding of a 30 km water supply pipeline from the Fitzroy River in Rockhampton to Yeppoon on the Capricorn Coast in Queensland.
Raising National Water Standards Program
The Raising National Water Standards Program is intended to assist in the development of tools necessary for good water management.
This Program is aimed at improving Australia's national capacity to measure, monitor and manage its water resources.
On 21 September 2006, the Prime Minister announced that a further 11 projects were eligible for funding under the Raising National Water Standards Program, bringing the total number of projects funded under this Program to 17, with total funding of approximately $14 million.
Projects that have been implemented under this initiative include:
The development of national water meter standards.
A baseline assessment of Australia’s water resources.
A baseline assessment of state and local government water governance arrangements.
Community Water Grants Program
The Community Water Grants Programis intended to encourage local communities to organise, save, recycle and improve the health of their local water resources. Projects funded under this Program typically involve water saving or efficiency, water recycling and water treatment.
The first round of funding under the Community Water Grants Program(up to March 2006) saw 1,750 projects totalling $61 million in grants.
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