Water security is one of the greatest issues facing Australia, and engineers have a significant role to play in helping to meet the challenge.
In a submission to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into progress on National Water Reform, Engineers Australia’s National Committee on Water Engineering (NCWE) called for better data to assist with water planning and management.
Coordinated by deputy chair Dr Brendan Berghout, ACT representative Associate Professor Katherine Daniell and Queensland representative Toby McGrath, the NCWE made 11 recommendations to the Commission based on its May 2020 Issues Paper.
“The availability of the glass of water you will drink tomorrow, and the day after that, is, at its core, based on water resources data,” McGrath told create.
He believes that the water engineering profession is acutely aware of limitations in the available data used in the development and implementation of plans that underpin water security for agricultural, domestic, industrial and environmental users throughout the country.
“Poor data collection and management systems mean that we can’t plan adequately for climate variability and change, we can’t properly evaluate environmental or cultural impacts, and we can’t evaluate in real time if users are complying with licence conditions,” he said.
The submission took a 360-degree view of water management in Australia, highlighting the need to ensure better connections between planning agencies, enhanced monitoring and compliance activities, inclusion of Indigenous perspectives and increased support for regional and remote communities.
A summary of the 11 recommendations is as follows:
- Formally review water resource monitoring systems, the fundamental data networks on which we manage and assess Australia’s water systems, including applying a report card system for stream gauging stations.
- Strengthen National Water Initiative (NWI) requirements for water resource data systems, the interface with land use planning, and management of extreme events.
- Review water management practice in past emergencies and provisions for future emergencies.
- Review and update water accounting and compliance regulations, and consider real-time reporting of diversions against allocations.
- Invest in basic hydrological and ecohydrological research and the data that underpins them.
- Develop a broadscale co-design process as a foundation for engagement on Indigenous values and knowledge in planning national water futures.
- Review the regulations, guidelines and practices of water utilities during extreme conditions and when providing public benefits such as flood mitigation and fire-fighting water supply.
- Evaluate options to improve the capability of small water suppliers in remote areas.
- Break down impediments to water sensitive urban design/integrated water cycle management principles, along with merit-based evaluations of urban water projects post-implementation.
- Evaluate all water…