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 Icon39348 KB

This document may not meet Australian Government accessibility guidelines as it has not been prepared by the department.

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. The NWI built upon the 1994 COAG Water Reform Framework.

Under the NWI, governments commit 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 assessment

Assessments of progress implementing the NWI are required to occur on a triennial basis, with the latest assessment by the Productivity Commission in 2017.

The next triennial assessment of the NWI is to occur in 2020.

Previous NWI assessments

The previous NWI ​assessment was undertaken by the National Water Commission (NWC) in 2014.

In 2014, the NWC was abolished, with triennial assessment functions transferred to the Productivity Commission.  Prior to this, assessments were biennial, with the NWC undertaking assessments in 2007, 2009 and 2011. The NWC also provided COAG an update of its 2007 assessment in 2008.


DocumentPagesFile size
2014 NWI Assessment PDF PDF Icon1604.6 MB
2011 NWI Assessment PDF PDF Icon3708.5 MB
2009 NWI Assessment PDF PDF Icon3062.2 MB
2008 updated NWI Assessment PDF PDF Icon721.5 MB
2007 NWI Assessment PDF PDF Icon1243.3 MB

These documents may not meet Australian Government accessibility guidelines as they have not been prepared by the department.

Water planning report card

The national water planning report card is a summary of progress of water planning across Australia against an evaluation framework based on key elements of the NWI. Report cards were prepared by the NWC in 2011 and 2013.

State and territory governments develop water plans that aim to manage water resources sustainably, under changing pressures, to maintain the viability of the resources and consumptive and non-consumptive uses that depend on them.

Water planning report cards seek to facilitate a discussion on the quality of water plans, as well as identify areas of better practice and those for improvement.


DocumentPagesFile size
2013 National water planning report card PDF PDF Icon5448.1 MB
2011 National water planning report card PDF PDF Icon49422.8 MB

These documents may not meet Australian Government accessibility guidelines as they have not been prepared by the department.

Abolition of the National Water Commission

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

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

Find information and publications from the NWC on its archive website.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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