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Water: three legged reform « Previous | |Next »
August 28, 2003

River Murray1.jpg
Whilst the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) continues to rail away (also here and here) in public about green groups pushing governments to their democratic limits, the Council of Australian Governments (CoAG) is addressing the need for water reform.

The CoAG meeting tomorrow may be a crucial one in terms of the reform process in water politics. Expectations have been raised that the states and the commonwealth will agree on a national policy that will allow water "rights" (entitlements) to be held without owning land.

This will allow water trading of these entitlements, ensure greater efficiency in the use of water and provide financial security to water users.

We should not get too carried away. That is only one leg of water reform. The are two other legs.

One of them is protecting river health. The issue is simple. There is not enough water to go keep going the way we have done on the past. There is not enough water in the Murray-Darling Basin system for all the entitlements of water that have been allocated by state governments. The over-allocated rivers and groundwater systems need to be bought back into balance by recovering water for the environment. There needs to be a shift in emphasis to ensure that the envvironmental needs of our river syems have the first call of the water required to keep them healthy. There needs to be a reduction of around 25% in water use.

The third leg of water reform is engaging local communities to determine catchment mangement priorities and strategies through a devolution of decision making. People who are required to give up water should be told what environmental assets are being protected and the volumes of environmental water is needed to protect them. We need to ensure a fair transition to sustainablity so that no group (eg., farmers) in the Murray-Darling Basin bears an unreasonable burden. That means, for instance, that there needs to be less dependence in the River Murray for urban water use and a shift to greater recycling of storm and waste water.

It is more than likely that CoAG will only address the first leg of the reform stool.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:20 PM | | Comments (0)