Australian water reform 2009

Second biennial assessment of progress in implementation of the National Water Initiative

This National Water Commission report records significant achievements in water reform across Australia. It covers all states and territories, groundwater and surface water systems, and urban and rural areas.

Because the Commonwealth now has a much greater role in water management, the assessment also considers how much the actions of the Australian Government have helped to achieve the objectives of the National Water Initiative (NWI).

What did the assessment find?

In many areas, progress in the past two years has been good, but the Commission has identified some areas where reform has been slow or inadequate. Based on its findings, the Commission has made 68 recommendations for further action to refocus national reform efforts over the next two years.

The Commission understands that jurisdictions have differing priorities, and are at different stages of water reform. The states and territories sharing the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) are obviously an important focus for many areas of water reform, but the Commission believes that many of the challenges in the basin apply elsewhere in Australia. Lessons from the MDB can benefit water management across the nation.

The Commission is convinced that further urban and rural water reform will contribute to the national micro-economic reform agenda and deliver enduring benefits across Australia. These include economic productivity gains, sustainable use of natural resources, and a more harmonised and efficient approach to water management. Such reform is essential as Australia tackles the challenges posed by global economic conditions and climate change.

What informed the assessment?

To produce the 2009 biennial assessment, the Commission drew on a wide range of sources, including submissions from the public and NWI parties, many reports and studies, selected consultancies, and a stakeholder forum held in May 2009. The assessment includes examples and case studies to highlight progress, best practice and areas where more effort is needed. Many are jurisdiction-specific, but the lessons are often applicable across Australia.

How is the assessment structured?

Each chapter of the 2009 biennial assessment relates to an objective of the NWI, with an additional chapter on urban water reform. The chapters are grouped into four themes:

  • Understanding our water resources and use
  • Ensuring the health of river and groundwater systems
  • Increasing the productivity and efficiency of water use
  • Dealing with challenges for rural and urban communities. 

There is a brief summary of some of the central findings and recommendations arising from each chapter, accompanied by a PDF download of the entire chapter.

Why was this assessment undertaken?

The National Water Commission is required to undertake biennial assessments of progress in implementing the National Water Initiative. 

The 2009 biennial assessment is the Commission's second two-yearly assessment of progress in the implementation of the NWI. It focuses on developments since the 2007 biennial assessment.

The assessment is also a contribution to the public debate on water reform, which has become much wider in recent years as a result of drought, climate change, and the urgent need to manage the nation's water resources more efficiently and sustainably, particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin. 

Documents for download

Download 2009_BA_-_findings_and_recommendations.pdf Findings and recommendations (162KB)

Download 2009_BA_letter.pdf Letter to the Prime Minister (267KB)

Download 2009_BA_executive_summary.pdf Executive summary complete (178KB) (breakdown at right)

Download 2009_BA_complete_report.pdf Complete document (1.97MB) (If you would like to receive a printed copy of the report, email with your mailing address details.)

Download 2009_BA_introduction.pdf Introduction (133KB)

Download 2009_BA_chapter_1_water_planning.pdf Ch 1 - Water planning (179KB)

Download 2009_BA_chapter_2_understanding_connectivity.pdf Ch 2 - Understanding surface and groundwater connectivity (163KB)

Download 2009_BA_chaper_3_water_accounting.pdf Ch 3 - Water accounting and water data (151KB)

Download 2009_BA_chapter_4_environmental_water.pdf Ch 4 - Environmental water (258KB)

Download 2009_BA_chapter_5_overallocation.pdf Ch 5 - Addressing overallocation and overuse (167KB)

Download 2009_BA_chapter_6_entitlements.pdf Ch 6 - Water entitlements (173KB)

Download 2009_BA_chapter_7_water_markets.pdf Ch 7 - Water markets and trading (307KB)

Download 2009_BA_chapter_8_pricing_demand.pdf Ch 8 - Pricing, demand management, other policy initiatives (267KB)

Download 2009_BA_chapter_9_risk_assignment.pdf Ch 9 - Risk assignment (152KB)

Download 2009_BA_chapter_10_structural_adjustment.pdf Ch 10 - Structural adjustment and water reform (172KB)

Download 2009_BA_chapter_11_urban_water.pdf Ch 11 - Urban water (320KB)

Download 2009_BA_appendices.pdf Appendices (312KB)

Download 2009_BA_abbreviations.pdf Abbreviations (72KB)