Water is a crucial issue – and not just when it is scarce. The Australian Greens are committed to our nation's water security. We can achieve this through water-sensitive design, efficiency, capture and reuse, and responsive agricultural systems. Access to clean and adequate water is fundamental to life, and all Australians should be guaranteed water supply that meets their basic human needs – regardless of capacity to pay. Water is a scarce and fluctuating resource, and the Greens believe Australia's major water supplies should be publicly managed through a system of regulated water allocations.
Prioritising water resilience
Successive governments have failed to prioritise water resilience or water-sensitive urban design, particularly stormwater harvesting. The Australian Guidelines for Urban Stormwater Management are 16 years old, highlighting how little attention urban water resilience receives from governments. The Greens want to see sustainable water use included as a compulsory element of planning in Commonwealth, state and territory water reform legislation and agreements. States and territories should adopt targets for reducing water consumption, and increasing recycling and reuse.
Committing to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan
The Greens are committed to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (the Plan). Australia is already seeing positive outcomes from the Plan, including improved freshwater flows. These keep the Murray mouth open, and wetlands replenished, leading to healthier vegetation and increased numbers of waterbirds and fish. The Plan has been a crucial step towards improving environmental outcomes for our water systems, but we must do more.
Boosting environmental flows
The Greens know how crucial the Murray-Darling Basin is for Australia's food production and economy. We support reforms to keep the system healthy all the way up from the Murray mouth, winding back the over-allocation of water and restoring precious ecosystems so they can keep sustaining Australia. The Greens want to see the return of water to environmental flows, through improved water efficiency measures for irrigated agriculture and the buyback of water entitlements in severely degraded and over-allocated systems.
We want reforms that will assist all Basin communities to build their jobs and economies and restore our internationally recognised wetlands and productive agricultural areas to good health. This is a key reform facing Australia over the next decade – we have to get it right.
We believe the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must have the opportunity to participate in water catchment planning and management, and there should be no new large-scale dams on Australian rivers.
Independent oversight of water management
The Greens condemned the Liberal Government's move to axe the National Water Commission in the 2014-15 Budget. Governments need robust, independent advice from experts and this requires adequate funding.
Sustainable Water Institute
The Australian Greens have a fully costed plan to establish a Sustainable Water Institute from 2017 onwards. This research hub would administer $25 million per year to improve urban water use and build water resilience. The Institute would advance research on:
- Water-sensitive urban design
- Sustainable agriculture
- Water recycling
- Water efficiency
- Stormwater harvesting
By investing in world-leading research, we can take action to improve our water resilience and reduce our burden on the environment. It is critical that we shift to more sustainable water use practices and bolster our long-term water security. As the driest inhabited continent on Earth, Australia has the chance to lead on water innovation, security and resilience.