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‘Basic level of service’ report shines light on call for safe water across SA

MEDIA RELEASE: The South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) is calling for the SA state government to put basic human rights at the forefront in ensuring that everyone has access to safe, secure and reliable drinking water.

SACOSS’ renewed call on this critical area comes with the release of a new report it has commissioned: Basic Level of Service: Settings for long-term water security in remote South Australia. Written by Professor Nancy Cromar and Emeritus Professor Eileen Willis, the report provides guidance on how to address the long-standing issue that some communities in South Australia don’t have adequate access to safe and reliable drinking water, by developing a ‘basic level of service’.

SACOSS has long been calling for a basic level of service to be established and implemented across SA, and welcomed the State Government’s 2021 commitment for self-supplied remote communities.

The Basic Level of Service report suggests that a human rights framework be applied to the provision of a basic level of safe and reliable drinking water to:

  • Enable provision of water services that are available, safe, acceptable, accessible and affordable for all communities in SA regardless of their physical location;
  • Foreground the principles of core obligations, progressive improvement, and the use of maximum available resources to be considered in determining not only the sustainability of water services but their ability to deliver on the most basic needs of all individuals;
  • Provide a means for South Australia to redress past disadvantage and consider how we move beyond a “minimum” standard for unserved or underserved groups and take positive measures to address structural causes of inequality;
  • Bring a different paradigm to discussions with the water sector; making the provision of safe drinking water not something simply to be desired for all, but as a legal entitlement, and importantly putting individuals and societies rather than economies at the centre of the debate.  

SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley said: “The development of a basic level of service will be critical to lifting the standard of water provision to historically underserved communities across SA.

“It will help to ensure that both the State Government and SA Water prioritise water security improvements, and it provides a baseline to guide investment for both SA Water and the Government.

“We are glad that the State Government has stepped up and made a commitment to develop a standard by 2022, but this work must be a high priority. We don’t want to see it slide to the backburner – it’s too important.  And, of course, we don’t just want to see a standard – we want to see it implemented.

“Access to safe, affordable, reliable water is a basic need – let’s make sure that that need is met.”

SACOSS Senior Policy Officer for Energy and Water Rebecca Law is presenting the research today 10 August 2022 at the Voices for the Bush Conference in Alice Springs.

You can access the report here


SACOSS has released and commissioned a number of reports on issues and solutions relating to the provision of safe, affordable, reliable drinking water across SA, including the 2021 Falling through the gaps report. The State Government has subsequently undertaken to develop a standard for a basic level of safe and reliable drinking water for self-supplied remote communities by 2022, as part of the State Implementation Plan for the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.


Published Date: 
Wednesday, 10 August 2022