National Water Initiative Overview
On 25 June 2004, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG - consisting of the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association) agreed to a blueprint for Australia’s continuing water reform. That blueprint is detailed in an Intergovernmental Agreement known as the National Water Initiative (NWI). All States and territories and the Commonwealth are now parties to the agreement.
The ultimate objective of the NWI is to ensure the health of river and groundwater systems while increasing the productivity and efficiency of Australia’s water use.
This will require arrangements that provide greater certainty for the environment and for investors and participants in the water industry. Australia’s water management regimes will be required to adapt to future changes in water availability responsively and fairly in both rural and urban areas.
Link to the Intergovernmental Agreement:
The Intergovernmental Agreement establishes the National Water Commission which takes on the role of monitoring the implementation of the National Water Initiative by the States and Territories. The National Water Commission reports to COAG which in turn is responsible to the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council, which has the ultimate carriage of the National Water Initiative.
In addition to the NWI Agreement, a Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) Water Agreement was also signed at the COAG meeting by the Prime Minister, the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia and the Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory. This MDB Water Agreement sets out the arrangements for investing $500 million over five years commencing in 2004-05, to reduce the level of water overallocation and to achieve specific environmental outcomes in the MDB. This agreement has now been superceded by a new agreement signed in 2008 for the reform of the Murray Darling Basin.
Copies of both the NWI Agreement and the MDB Water Agreement as signed by First Ministers can be found at:
A requirement of the National Water Initiative is that each State prepare an Implementation Plan that is accredited by the National Water Commission. South Australia’s accredited Implementation Plan can be viewed on the National Water Commission’s website: South Australia NWI implementation plan.
To assist with implementation, the Australian Government has allocated $2b for projects that meet the objectives of the National Water Initiative. This money was made available through the Australian Government Water Fund which is now administered by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts: Water Smart Australia.
State Government and Local Government agencies and non-government organisations can submit projects for funding through the Australian Government Water Fund programs. South Australia has obtained funding in the first round of calls for a number of projects. The link below will provide an update of the approved projects under Water Smart Australia: Water Smart Australia projects sorted by state.