Raising National Water Standards Program

This $250 million program offered support for projects that would improve Australia's national capacity to measure, monitor and manage our water resources.

The Raising National Water Standards (RNWS) Program closed on 30 June 2012, having supported 178 projects worth $245.12 million.

Funds from the RNWS Program were directed at activities across three strategic investment areas:

  1. advancing the implementation of the National Water Initiative
  2. improving integrated water management across Australia
  3. improving knowledge and understanding of our water resources.

In 2007, a National Groundwater Action Plan was initiated by the Commission under the Program to fund projects to progress the groundwater reforms agreed to under the National Water Initiative.

Approved projects

Projects were funded under the following themes:

Find out more about the National Groundwater Action Plan.

Map of Australia showing all states and territories 

See a list of all the projects by jurisdiction.

Under various RNWS themes, the Commission funded numerous projects to improve knowledge and understanding of Indigenous Australians’ water-related social and economic aspirations. A consolidated listing of these Indigenous projects is available.

Raising National Water Standards Program evaluation

The Commission devised a three-stage strategy to evaluate the evolving RNWS Program and capture lessons learned. This would ultimately provide a comprehensive overview of the Program’s appropriateness, efficiency, effectiveness, impact, lessons learnt and legacy.

A summary Evaluations relied principally on data collected under the Evaluation Framework for the RNWS Program, which provided a structure and process to report on achievements against targets and outcomes, as well as annual business plans.

In considering the program’s effectiveness in achieving short-term foundational outcomes and medium-term outcomes across target areas, the Stage 1 evaluation focused on reviewing the Commission’s investment strategy for the program and identifying opportunities for improved outcomes at the program’s mid-point. The Stage 1 review also commenced a rolling review of projects from three of the eleven water reform investment themes (water accounting, emerging water markets, and integrated urban water management), together with a selection of projects across other themes.

Looking at the program’s effectiveness in achieving medium-term outcomes across target areas and longer-term national water management outcomes, the Stage 2 evaluation concentrated on reviewing projects from groundwater, water planning and northern rivers/futures themes, along with a selection of projects outside these themes. Evaluators also placed an emphasis on capturing the perspectives of the ‘end users’ of RNWS project outputs in order to better understand the extent to which the RNWS Program was beginning to influence water decision-making and management.

The Stage 3 evaluation built on the previous two evaluations, reviewing the outcomes and impact of the program through the remaining water reform investment themes and analysing the effectiveness of the Commission’s project management approach in ensuring high quality project outcomes.

This final evaluation highlighted program legacies through the development of knowledge and capacity across areas that required urgent reform. Evaluators noted that the substantial pool of technical knowledge and information created from projects would well serve future research and development, water planning and management.

Moreover, there was ongoing scope to leverage the intellectual property and knowledge that had been created through investments under the program.

The lessons learnt from the program and its implementation, together with the legacy generated from investments, would continue to advance national water reform objectives.

Findings from all evaluations are available in a summary evaluation overview (PDF 112.9 KB) (DOC 1.3MB), highlighting the achievements and outcomes of the RNWS Program.