Basic Level of Service report on water security in remote SA highlights the value of a human rights approach to water security
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.
In August 2022 SACOSS released 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’.
The report notes that the notion of access for all to safe and reliable water provision is a fundamental requirement of a civilised and economically advanced society like Australia, and that the Australian Productivity Commission has identified that each state and territory should set a standard for a basic level of service.
The report suggests that rather than simply reflecting a safe standard of water quality and a reliable supply, the basic level of service could take the opportunity to consider all the attributes of the human rights framework identified in the OHCHR document and outlined in the UNs SDG6. This would significantly augment the argument that Australians should be provided with water services that are available, safe, acceptable, accessible and affordable for all communities regardless of their physical location. The notion of progressive improvement could be achieved through a tiered approach to service standards, which could also highlight the need to lift up those most disadvantaged first, echoing the UN-SDGs approach.
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 Senior Policy Officer for Energy and Water Rebecca Law presented the research on 10 August 2022 at the Voices for the Bush Conference in Alice Springs.