National Water Initiative

​​​The National Water Initiative (NWI), agreed in 2004 by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), is the national blueprint for water reform.

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Intergovernmental agreement on a National Water Initiative PDF PDF Icon 39348 KB

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Building on the 1994 COAG Water Reform Framework, the NWI is a shared commitment by governments to increase the efficiency of Australia's water use, leading to greater certainty for investment and productivity, for rural and urban communities and for the environment.

Under the NWI, governments have made commitments to:

  • prepare comprehensive water plans
  • achieve sustainable water use in over-allocated or stressed water systems
  • introduce registers of water rights and standards for water accounting
  • expand trade in water rights
  • improve pricing for water storage and delivery
  • better manage urban water demands.

NWI triennial assessments

The amendment of the National Water Commission Act 2004 in 2012 changed the timeframes for NWI assessments.
NWI assessments are now required to occur on a triennial basis, with the previous as​sessment being undertaken by the National Water Commission in 2014.

In 2014 the National Water Commission was abolished, with triennial assessment functions being transferred to the Productivity Commission.

The next triennial assessment of the NWI is to occur in 2017.

NWI biennial assessments

Progress in implementation of the NWI was reported by the National Water Commission in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

COAG sought advice in 2009 on addressing the main findings of the National Water Commission's second biennial assessment of progress in implementation of the NWI. See COAG Response to the National Water Commission's second biennial assessment.

The 2011 report was also a comprehensive review of the NWI. The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities provided a submission in April 2011 in response to specific questions from the National Water Commission.

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Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities submission to the NWC (April 2011) PDF PDF Icon 16279 KB
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities submission to the NWC (April 2011) DOC Word Icon16141 KB

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National Water Commission

The National Water Commission was established in 2004 to drive national water reform under the National Water Initiative. Its responsibilities included the monitoring, auditing and assessment of national progress on the National Water Initiative and other activities to promote national water reform objectives.

The Commission was abolished in 2014 with the repeal of the National Water Commission Act 2004, and the Commission’s functions have now been transferred to other agencies.

Find information and publications from the former National Water Commission on its archive website.