Joint media release: Release of the Productivity Commission report into National Water Initiative

2 September 2021

Treasurer, the Hon  Josh Frydenberg MP
Minister for Resources and Water, the Hon. Keith Pitt MP

Today the Government has released the Productivity Commission’s (PC) final report into Australia’s progress towards reforming the water resources sector commissioned by the Commonwealth Government in May 2020.

The PC finds that “good progress” has been made against the National Water Initiative (NWI) reform agenda highlighting the “material benefits” that has lowered average water use by households, driven more efficient use by industry, provided more water for the environment, and enabled stakeholders to better adapt to uncertainty.

The NWI is a shared commitment by Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, which aims to increase the efficiency of Australia’s water use, provide investment confidence, supply security for rural and urban communities, and provide greater certainty for the environment.

The Report finds that through national reforms such as the establishment of consistent water planning arrangements by states and territories and the creation of water trading markets has “established pathways to create a more sustainable balance between consumptive and environmental uses”.

The PC says the “NWI has served Australia well, and reforms have been widely supported by the water sector, industry and stakeholders”.

The PC notes that states and territories are still in the process of implementing metering policies for non-urban water users; water access and reliability remains an area of concern for some rural and regional communities (especially during times of drought) and all jurisdictions can continue to improve the scale and quality of their engagement with communities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

With states and territory governments responsible for the implementation of the majority of the recommendations, the report will inform the renewal of the NWI which is due to be agreed by 2022.

Under the Water Act 2007, the Productivity Commission is required to undertake three-yearly inquiries into the progress of all Australian governments in achieving the objectives, outcomes and timelines of reform directions proposed in the 2004 Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Water Initiative.

The Commission received nearly 200 submissions from stakeholders in the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, along with consumers, environmental industries and Indigenous stakeholders.

The final report is available on the Commission’s website.