Water Matters - Issue 52, September 2020

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New actions to invest in Murray–Darling communities


The new investment package puts communities, jobs and economic activity at the heart of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.

Support for our Basin communities, jobs and economic activity is at the heart of the next chapter for the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.

The Australian Government is investing more than $230 million to ensure a sustainable and certain future for the Basin, its people, industries and environment.

The Murray–Darling Communities Investment Package, made up of 11 new actions, will support Basin communities who have endured years of drought, a summer of bushfires and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

The main objectives of the package are investing in community resilience and river heath, building trust, transparency and accountability in government, and improving implementation of the Basin Plan.

Matthew Dadswell, head of our department’s Murray–Darling Basin Policy Reform Taskforce, said that the new package of initiatives will create jobs and economic activity in regional areas.

‘The actions will benefit the communities, rivers and wetlands that make up our shared natural heritage,’ Mr Dadswell said.

‘The 11 new initiatives will keep the Basin Plan on track while ruling out water buybacks.’

‘This package will help achieve a sustainable Basin for all Australians,’ he said.

The package reaffirms the Government’s commitment to delivering the Basin Plan while putting people and communities first.

Find out more about the Murray–Darling Communities Investment Package today.

Supporting the Great Artesian Basin for the future


The latest Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan ensures this precious resource is well managed into the future.

The Great Artesian Basin is one of the largest underground freshwater resources in the world and Australia’s largest source of fresh water. It generates nearly $13 billion annually for the Australian economy and is a vital water source for communities, farms, industry and our environment.

To ensure this resource will be well managed into the future, our department, in partnership with the Great Artesian Basin jurisdictions, recently launched in July 2020 the latest Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan.

The 15-year plan provides a framework for governments, communities and industries to manage and use the water resources of the Basin in a collaborative, fair and sustainable way. The Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee played a lead role in developing the Strategic Management Plan.

Kirsty Bunfield was the department’s representative and chair for the Great Artesian Basin Senior Officials Committee under the Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee, working alongside her counterparts from across Basin jurisdictions. Ms Bunfield said implementation of the plan will assist stakeholders to identify and respond to the risks, issues, challenges and opportunities associated with the use of Basin water.

‘The framework informs how we sustain one of our greatest natural resources,’ Ms Bunfield said.
‘It ensures the Basin’s economies and communities succeed and its unique environmental, cultural, social and heritage values are enhanced into the future.’

‘It also provides greater certainty for farmers, traditional owners, businesses and communities who rely on the Basin,’ she said.

Ms Bunfield also reflected on how the new plan benefits from two decades of lessons from the first Strategic Management Plan, released in 2000.

‘This latest update of the plan factors in new technical knowledge, better sustainable water resource management practices, and responds to changes that have arisen in the last 20 years,’ she said.

The revised plan also reflects public consultation with water users and other stakeholders across Basin jurisdictions, which saw more than 100 stakeholders providing input. The consultation involved an online survey on the department’s Have Your Say platform, email and postal submissions, and regional public meetings across the Basin.

Read the Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan now.

WELS ad campaign delivers


WELS online advertising campaign reaches more people.

Our Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) team is reaching more and more people through an online advertising campaign targeting Australians who shop online for showers, taps and other household water-using appliances.

WELS joined forces with the Australian Building Codes Board to get their messages out to consumers who are increasingly buying their household plumbing and white goods online.

The teams ran online ads throughout June and early July to remind shoppers to only buy products that comply with the WaterMark Certification Scheme and the WELS Scheme.

According to WELS Regulator, Rachel Connell, with more people shopping online during the pandemic, this has been a great opportunity to educate more consumers about how to check whether the products they are looking to buy meet Australian standards, save water and also save them money on their utility bills.

‘By targeting our message directly to shopping sites we can help to influence buying decisions and ultimately save water,’ Ms Connell said.

‘This also drives compliance by sending a strong signal to online sellers that compliant goods are likely to be of greater preference to Australian consumers,’ she said.

The ads targeted shoppers across most online sites for one month. They encouraged online shoppers to ‘check before they check out’ and visit the WELS and WaterMark websites to make sure their product complies.  

The ads also encouraged shoppers to report items that did not comply with the WELS standard.

We will use the lessons we have learned from this campaign in the design of future education and compliance activities.

Find out more from the Water Rating website.

Australia’s agriculture and water policies making good waves


Australia ranks among the top countries in the world for aligning our agriculture and water policies with global recommendations.

Australia has been ranked among the top countries in the world for aligning our agriculture and water policies with global recommendations in a report released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

With water being a crucial resource as climate stresses increase, strong national water policy is more important than ever to sustain and advance Australian agriculture in our globalised economy.

The OECD report takes stock of agriculture and water policy changes from 2009 to 2019 and assesses the alignment of these changes with OECD recommendations and the G20 Agriculture Ministerial Action Plan on water and food security.

In this latest report, which gathered responses from 38 countries, Australia was found to have the highest average implementation of the OECD Council Recommendation on Water.

Kirsty Bunfield, head of National Water Policy at our department, said that Australia’s high ranking was well-deserved recognition of Australia’s efforts in water policy reform.

‘This shows international acknowledgement of the effort Australia has put into the hard-won water policy reforms of the last decade,’ Ms Bunfield said.

Australia aims for further reforms in the upcoming National Water Initiative (NWI) renewal.

‘This is a great result, but the water policy reform journey isn’t over yet. The upcoming NWI renewal presents another opportunity for Australia to move forward and tackle these — and future — challenges,’ Ms Bunfield said.

In 2016 and 2017, the OECD and G20 nations committed to action on water reform by signing the OECD Council Recommendation on Water and the G20 Agriculture Ministerial Action Plan on water and food security.

Both these international statements set out guidance for sustainable water management policies to help manage the risks that climate change, population growth and pollution pose to agriculture.

Read the full report today.

We are happy to feature information about some of our programs which aren’t necessarily linked to water but are important to Water Matters subscribers.

Farm Household Allowance supports farmers in need


The Farm Household Allowance program helps farming families experiencing financial hardship.

An Australian horticulture farmer was able to come out of debt, expand their business, and build a stable future direction for their family thanks to the package of support from the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) program.

This is one of many success stories of the FHA program, which has provided much needed breathing space to over 15,000 farmers across Australia since 2014. The program has delivered more than $460 million into rural communities.

Prior to applying for FHA support, this farmer was barely making minimum wage on a farm that relied solely on rainwater. Their business position was becoming increasingly uncertain as the drought worsened, and they were only able to produce and sell minimal amounts of produce.

Like a lot of farmers with cash deficits, this farmer also had to cut back on spending in their local town.

Case management guidance and access to the $4,000 activity supplement meant the farmer could seek professional agronomy advice. This enabled them to not only improve soil condition, but also eliminate thirsty weeds that were taking moisture from the soil, and establish the ground for further crops.

They also received help to develop an ongoing plan for the future of their farming enterprise from their local Rural Financial Counselling Service. Their Rural Financial Counsellor (RFC) helped them understand the profitability of their business and identify next steps.

After the first year of applying this advice and support, the farmer’s yield tripled— even with enduring drought conditions.

The farmer has expressed their gratitude for both their Farm Household Case Officer (FHCO) and RFC.

‘If it was not for the combined support from the FHCO and the RFC, I would have had to walk away with an uncertain future,’ the farmer said.

‘It has removed the burden of waiting to reap the income from our hard work,’ they said.

To learn more about new improvements to the program (including the activity supplement increasing to $10,000) and find out if you’re eligible visit Services Australia.

News from the water portfolio

You can find news from the portfolio at the following media pages:

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, the Hon Keith Pitt MP
Murray–Darling Basin Authority

Last reviewed: 21 September 2020
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