By Rich Bowden
The debate over water reform has received less scrutiny of late with the drought broken in much of the country and national attention turning to matters such as the carbon tax debate, the bankrupted Malaysian refugee solution and of course the coverage of the footy finals.
However a report released last week by the National Water Commission has brought the issue of water reform to the fore by delivering the equivalent of a “mixed bag” on Australia’s water management. The third biennial assessment following the establishment of the 2004 National Water Initiative (NWI), the study warned the states against complacency, stating that many reforms remain to be implemented.
The Commission has delivered 12 recommendations and called on governments to address the problems of water extraction particularly in relation to such issues as coal gas mining and water stewardship.
Commission chairwoman Chloe Munro said the study sounded a warning to state governments, saying much more needed to be done.
“Although the planning processes are there and progress is gradually being made, governments have not clearly stated which of their water systems require some adjustment in order to bring them to a sustainable level of extraction or they haven’t described a pathway by which that will be achieved,” she said.
Launching the report Ms Munro said the NWI had delivered some improvements but that key goals, such as that of sustainable water management, remained elusive.
“This independent report shows that actions under the National Water Initiative have made water use more efficient, sustainable and secure – and this helped Australians weather the worst drought on record.”
“However, the goal of sustainable water management has not been reached,” she pointed out.
An Australian Conservation Foundation media release said the report underlines the key problem of over extraction of water.
“The National Water Commission has sent a clear message to decision makers at state and federal levels that the underlying problem of water reform in Australia – over-extraction – remains a problems and needs to be addressed,” said ACF healthy rivers campaigner, Dr Arlene Harriss-Buchan.
“Dealing with the problem of over-extraction is the great unfinished business of water reform in Australia,” she said.
The report highlights the precariousness of water reform in the country, coming as it does ahead of the key Draft Murray Darling Basin Plan, due to be delivered next month where the issue of irrigators and over extraction will be addressed.
This article originally published in EcoDirectory, Australia’s guide to sustainable living.