The National Water Initiative (NWI) agreement included objectives, outcomes and agreed commitments across eight inter-related elements of water management.
Under the NWI, governments made commitments to:
- prepare water plans with provision for the environment
- deal with over-allocated or stressed water systems
- introduce registers of water rights and standards for water accounting
- expand the trade in water
- improve pricing for water storage and delivery
- meet and manage urban water demands.
Full implementation of the NWI aims to deliver:
- effective water planning: transparent and statutory-based water planning that deals with key issues such as the natural variability of water systems, major water interception activities, the interaction between surface water and groundwater systems, and the provision of water to achieve specific environmental outcomes
- clear, nationally compatible and secure water access entitlements: providing more confidence for those investing in the water industry through more secure water entitlements; better and more compatible registry arrangements; better monitoring, reporting and accounting; and improved public access to information
- conjunctive management of surface water and groundwater resources: so that the connectivity between the two is recognised, and connected systems are managed in an integrated manner
- resolution of overallocation and overuse: returning overallocated systems to sustainable levels of extraction as quickly as possible
- clear assignment of the risks associated with changes in future water availability: ensuring that the risks arising from reductions in the pool of water available for consumptive use are shared between governments and water users according to an agreed framework, to provide investors and entitlement holders with certainty about how changes will be dealt with
- effective water accounting: providing information on how much water there is, where it is, who has control of it, who is using it, and what it is being used for in order to support confidence about the amount of water being delivered, traded, extracted and managed for environmental and other public benefits
- open water markets: removing artificial barriers to trading in water entitlements and allocations, bringing about more productive water use and enabling more cost-effective and flexible recovery of water to achieve economic, social and environmental objectives
- effective structural adjustment ensuring that water policy, planning and management are facilitating and expediting adjustment, rather than impeding it.
These actions, taken together, would achieve:
- economically efficient water use and related investment that maximise the economic, social and environmental value of Australia’s water resources
- improved environmental water outcomes, including the identification and effective and efficient delivery of water to sustain the health of water-dependent ecosystems of waterways and wetlands.
Each state and territory government was required to prepare an NWI implementation plan. The Commission has accredited nine NWI implementation plans.