Australia ready for next phase in urban water reform
With many cities and towns facing increasing pressures from population growth and climate change, the recent Productivity Commission report into National Water Reform placed urban water as a priority area for reform, but what does this mean?
Presenting at the upcoming Australian Water Association ACT Water Matters conference in June on opportunities for urban water reform, Adam Sincock said Australia is now at a new turning point.
“If you go back to the 1990s and early 2000s, there was a successful competition policy reform agenda involving the corporatisation of water utilities resulting in significant efficiency gains,” he said.
“The latter half of the 2000s saw significant investments in projects across the country to improve water security in our cities and towns, which was a new phase in urban water reform.
“One of the principal outcomes of this period was proving that technology is not a limiting factor in providing alternate water sources and water security.”
Sincock said that with the establishment of desalination, recycling and reuse initiatives, aquifer storage and recovery, and other stormwater management initiatives, opportunities now exist to take sustainable urban water management to a new level.
“We’re on the edge of the next phase of urban water reform. We know the 21st century is going to be the urban century, and not just in Australia,” he said.
“We have 90% of our 25 million population currently living in urban centres and we are heading towards a total population of 34 million by 2050.
“One thing’s for sure: we cannot rely on past reforms to deliver the future water solutions for our cities and towns.”
Sincock said he will be exploring some of the opportunities for urban water reform at the ACT Water Matters conference, as a way of starting a conversation about reform options and what they might mean for the urban water sector.
“Some of the existing institutions and governance arrangements that determine how we do things have served us well in the past. However, we need to look at those and ask some serious questions about whether they will be suitable going forward,” he said.
“This includes examining the roles and responsibilities of governments, water utilities, the private sector and the community in urban water management.
“We need to think about long-term planning for water security, regulation and the different forms that regulation could take.”
Sincock said the next phase of urban water reform will be about asking some hard questions about how we want to live and what we are prepared to accept.
“The vast majority of our population will be living and working in our cities so how we value our urban environments, the services they provide, and what we are prepared to pay for them will all be fundamental to our quality of life and urban water, in all its forms, will have a critical role to play.”
Register for the Australian Water Association ACT Water Matters conference to hear more from Adam Sincock about the next phase of urban water reform in Australia.