The South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) welcomes the Productivity Commission’s recently-released final report into National Water Reform.
The report recommends updating the National Water Initiative (NWI) to actively recognise the need to embrace the realities of, and adapt to, climate change while also working to improve water rights and access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
It also calls for a commitment by State and Territory Governments to each develop a definition of, and to ensure access to, a basic level of water services for all Australians.
This comes off the back of the South Australian Government’s recent commitment to developing a standard for a basic level of safe and reliable drinking water for self-supplied remote communities by 2022, as part of the state’s Implementation Plan for the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.
SACOSS strongly welcomes a basic level of service policy as a clear basis to guide long-term decision-making and policy decisions, as identified in the SACOSS-commissioned Falling Through the Gaps report released earlier this year.
“We support the Productivity Commission’s recommendations around securing equitable access to safe and reliable drinking water for all Australians, and congratulate the State Government for taking ownership of this longstanding issue and committing to a solution underpinned by sound policy and strategy,” said SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley.
“However, in the spirit of securing safe and reliable water for all South Australians, this standard must be applied across all regional and remote communities in South Australia, not just those which are self-supplied,” he stated.
“Water is a basic need. It is essential for survival, health, and social and cultural well-being. These issues are not going to go away any time soon. In fact, as the Productivity Commission notes, they are almost certain to become more complex with more frequent and severe droughts as a result of a changing climate.
“It is critical that we begin conversations between communities, government and service providers about how basic water needs can be met under all circumstances, both in drought and ‘normal’ times. This is a promising first step, but there is still more work to be done. And, of course, appropriate funding will be crucial to achieving this fundamental requirement.
“We look forward to working with government in determining how a basic level of service might be set, and seeing concrete improvements to drinking water services for regional and remote communities in South Australia,” Mr Womersley stated.