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The big water issues in SA’s state election

With South Australia’s state election drawing near, water professionals around the state are keen to see how ministerial candidates intend to support the sector, with continued policy reform and economic growth key issues for the industry.

Performing master of ceremonies at the upcoming SA 2018 Water Outlook Breakfast Briefing, Water Industry Alliance CEO Rachel Barratt said although water may not be a significant public election issue this year, there is still plenty of work to be done behind the scenes.

“In many respects, SA, like many other parts of Australia, has just come out of 15 years’ worth of water reform,” Barratt said.

“We are a lot better off than we were 10 years ago. Water, from the public perspective, is probably not going to hit the headlines very much. It used to be one of the top three issues. But, from a popularity point of view, water is unlikely to be on the radar for this election.”

And while this is a good position to be in, Barratt said it remains important to keep the public engaged in water issues so that continued work can be done to ensure the state’s water portfolio stays healthy.

“Our biggest challenge now is to make the community care about water again and see that there is a need for continual reform,” she said.

“Those within the policy space would say that we still have a long way to go in managing and supplying water for liveability, but how do we do water-sensitive urban design better and enable our policies to allow us to be more innovative?

“We have realised that we need to green our cities, and do it smarter. We need to assess how we have that conversation with the public; how we communicate that it’s okay to use water, but it’s about being smart and a bit more bold.”

Barratt said SA’s water sector will be keen to hear from election candidates about how they plan on aiding the sector, particularly in light of the need to keep the public engaged and how they intend to nurture this vital industry.

“The water portfolio has traditionally been seen as an environment portfolio in terms of how we manage our rivers and so forth. But water is not just that – it’s an economic enabler,” she said.

“Our ability to supply water underpins our ability to achieve all other economic imperatives like food or goods, growing our population, ensuring we have a strong mining industry – water is fundamental to all of this.

“Ensuring that we have a vibrant, growing industry that is continuing to provide world-leading water solutions is critical. Water is increasingly becoming a question of industry and economic development, as well as the more traditional environment question.”

While the industry in SA is moving from strength to strength, Barratt said it will be important for ministerial candidates to make clear how they intend to continue this trend.

“There are great opportunities to grow the sector, and the question is: how will either government do it? What are their commitments or policies that will help grow and capitalise on the strengths we have?” she questioned.

Register for the SA 2018 Water Outlook Breakfast Briefing, presented by the Australian Water Association and Water Industry Alliance, to hear more about the big issues in SA’s state election from Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, and Minister for Climate Change Ian Hunter and Shadow Minister for the Environment David Speirs.