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National Water Week.

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This year we mark National Water Week when many parts of Australia are gripped by the worst drought in Australia’s history.

Its is a timely reminder that together and as individuals we can all play a part in protecting and conserving our most precious national resource - water.

The Australian Government’s $2 billion Water Fund has already committed $544 million to the conservation, preservation and improvement in the measurement and management of water throughout Australia.

Through the Australian Government’s Water Smart programme we have supported 36 projects across Australia with federal funding of $470 million towards investments of over $1.25 billion to protect and conserve our national water resources. As a result of these investments 1,350 gigalitres (1,350 billion litres) per year will be saved or better managed. I encourage all parties, particularly states and territories, to promptly progress the implementation of these projects so that Australians can benefit from these water savings.

Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia have received the majority of assistance, $466 million, for water savings projects to restore overused and over-allocated groundwater systems, water recycling, and stormwater harvesting. Examples include the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline, NSW Groundwater, Hunter Gosford-Wyong water supply system, Gold Coast reduction in water leakages and Waterproofing Northern Adelaide.

Through our Community Water Grant’s programme the Australian Government has also provided $61 million to help 1,750 community groups across Australia play a part in conserving water. Water savings from these community projects will save 18 gigalitres (18 billion litres) of water a year. A second round of proposals is currently being assessed. 1

In the past few weeks most states and territories have submitted proposals for larger water projects seeking federal funding. These are being examined and I have asked my Parliamentary Secretary the Hon Malcolm Turnbull to discuss these proposals and alternative suggestions with the states and territories. The Commonwealth’s main criterion in assessing projects will be to support projects which make the biggest national contribution to ameliorating our water problems.

The Australian Government is committed to restoring the health of the Murray Darling river system. In this year’s Budget we provided an additional $500 million to the Murray Darling Basin, bringing total payments by the Australian Government to the Murray Darling river system to over $2 billion since 1996.

While progress is being made to delivering water to the Murray - including through delivering 145 gigalitres a year through the Goulburn Murray Water Recovery project, 35 gigalitres through South Australia and 25 gigalitres through the Snowy scheme - more needs to be done and efforts across all states need to be accelerated. Through separate water tenders the Australian Government and NSW governments are seeking to voluntarily buy water through efficiency savings. I encourage all states to bring forward projects and investments so that we can deliver the first step target of 500 gigalitres to the Murray by 2009.

The National Water Initiative agreed by the Council of Australian Governments in 2004 is our world leading national blueprint for national water reform. Raising our national water standards, monitoring our national water assets, improving water planning, implementing water access entitlements, progressing water trading and improving water efficiency in our urban and rural communities are all critical elements to effectively manage our water resources for our communities, farmers, irrigators and the environment.

Through the Australian Government’s Raising National Water Standards programme seventeen projects have been commissioned to lift our national capacity to measure, monitor and manage our water resources. Investments of more than $42 million, with $27 million in federal funding support these projects.

It is imperative that we maintain a sense of urgency about water reform. The implementation of interstate water trading is a central objective of the National Water Initiative. Progress on the implementation of water trading commitments has not been as fast as it should have been. An effective water trading system across the country is important for efficient water use and more flexible recovery of water for farmers, irrigators, communities and the environment. 2

As we mark National Water Week I encourage all Australians to be water wise. By acting together, nationally and locally, we can improve our water management, conserve our water and deliver results for all Australians.

A complete list of projects already supported through the Australian Government Water Fund can be found at

15 October 2006 3