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What can the water sector expect from the Morrison Government?

Despite the polls predicting a Labor win, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Coalition colleagues have claimed enough seats to form a majority government following the federal election.

Water was on the agenda this election season, from low water storages in Australian cities to water buybacks and the state of the Murray-Darling Basin.

So what does the result mean for the water sector?

New water authority

In May, the Coalition promised it would establish a new statutory authority to deliver strategic planning and project management for water policy and water infrastructure if re-elected.

It said the National Water Grid (NWG) would ensure decisions about water were made based on the best available science, not political agendas.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the NWG’s first order of business would be to look at how large-scale diversion projects could be established to deliver cost-effective water to regional communities.

“We know the key to unlocking the potential of regional Australia is simple – just add water,” McCormack said at the time.

“Right across our nation, our regional communities experience droughts and flooding rains and we need states to work more closely with the Federal Government to better capture and store water as well as protecting our communities from devastating flood.”

Drought funding

McCormack today told reporters his priorities over the next term of government will be to continue drought assistance and build more regional infrastructure.

He said he wants to leave a political legacy of more dams.

One of the Coalition’s election policies centred on supporting farmers through the current drought, committing to invest $3.9 billion in the Future Drought Fund.

The fund will grow to $5 billion over the next decade and enable investment of $100 million per year in water infrastructure and drought resilience.

Sector response

The Australian Water Association’s (AWA) core purpose is to inspire and drive a sustainable water future, and Chief Executive Jonathan McKeown said he was looking forward to seeing how this sustainability would be delivered through the Coalition’s policies.

“The AWA looks forward to understanding how the new National Water Grid will provide water security for all Australians,” McKeown said.

“We need a renewed focus on water reform, not only in urban areas but also in regional and rural Australia.

“In urban areas, we need to ensure our expanding population has sufficient water supply and that water is being used to maximise the liveability of our cities.

“In rural and regional areas, we must ensure that the competing demands on water – for irrigation, agriculture, environmental and cultural uses – are balanced with equity and sustainability.”

McKeown said the AWA looks forward to working with the government and would seek a meeting with the relevant ministers to enable the water industry to express its views.