Billions invested in Australia’s water reform – but is the journey over?

In the past 12 years, Australian governments have invested more than $13 billion in water reforms designed to tackle increasing water demands, ageing water infrastructure, inefficient water use and uncertain water rights.

Much has been achieved, but have we finished the water reform process?

This question will be debated in a high-powered panel discussion on Australia’s current water policy and knowledge needs.

ABC personality Bernie Hobbs will moderate the session at the International Water Congress, which is being held in Brisbane, attracting more than 5000 delegates from around the world.

The session is being hosted by Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute (ARI), and is dedicated to the memory of visionary water scientist, Professor Peter Cullen AO FTSE.

ARI director Professor Stuart Bunn
ARI director Professor Stuart Bunn

ARI Director Professor Stuart Bunn“Australia has led the world in water reform, and many are interested in what we have achieved in the past decade,” says ARI director Professor Stuart Bunn.

“We made great progress through the National Water Initiative, during a difficult period spanning the millennium drought. Our governments and communities are now much better equipped for managing their water resources.

“The question is: are we still investing enough to address the knowledge gaps that remain and the new challenges we are facing? Peter Cullen was a great champion of science-informed policy.”

In 2010, Land & Water Australia, a major funder of water research, was discontinued, and last year the National Water Commission ended after 10 years of overseeing the national water reform process.

“Many Australian cities are still finding it hard to guarantee high-quality water security,” Professor Bunn says.

“People in rural areas are alarmed about the cumulative effects of mining, oil and gas extraction on water supplies and river ecosystems.  Proposed development of the north of Australia is based on the notion of a bountiful supply of water that is currently ‘going to waste’.”

The panel of top policy makers and scientists to discuss these questions are:

  • Ms Leith Boully (Chair, SunWater Ltd, Centre for Excellence for Water Recycling and board member of Murrumbidgee Irrigation, Isis Mill and CRC for Water Sensitive Cities, and former member of the National Water Commission)
  • Hon Karlene Maywald (former South Australian Water Minister for the River Murray and Minister for Water Security, and former Chair of the National Water Commission)
  • Mr David Parker (Deputy-Secretary for Water, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry)
  • Professor John Thwaites (Professorial Fellow at Monash University, Chair of ClimateWorks Australia and the Monash Sustainability Institute, Chair of Melbourne Water, Chair of the Peter Cullen Water and Environment Trust and former Deputy Premier and Water Minister, Victoria)
  • Mr Seamus Parker (Executive Director, Client Advisory, Queensland Treasury Corporation and winner of the Churchill Fellowship in 2001 for International Water Law, Policy, and Business)