WSAA collaborates with industry for all

The Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) is the peak industry body that connects the Australian urban water industry. It represents over 100 public and privately owned water or water-related organisations.

The Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) is the peak industry body that connects the Australian urban water industry. It represents over 100 public and privately owned water or water-related organisations.

Our members provide water and sewerage services to over 24 million customers in Australia and New Zealand. WSAA facilitates collaboration, knowledge sharing, networking and cooperation within the urban water industry based on our vision of a ‘customer-driven, enriching life. We are proud of our members’ collegiate attitude, which has led to industry-wide approaches to national water issues.

In 2021, we reviewed our strategy, including industry outcomes, enablers, and priorities for WSAA, in consultation with our Board and members. The WSAA priorities for 2021-2023 are:

  • national advocacy supporting industry outcomes;
  • understanding drivers of customer trust and value;
  • driving progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, including a focus on the uplift of regional, remote, and Indigenous water services;
  • promoting health, liveability, and wellbeing;
  • fostering the transition to a low carbon future and circular economy; and
  • performance improvement initiatives.

We are delivering on these priorities through activities that focus on:

  • influencing national and state policies on the provision of urban water services and sustainable water resource management;
  • promoting debate on environmentally sustainable development, management of water resources, and community health requirements of public water supplies;
  • improving industry performance, establishing benchmarks and industry-leading practices for water service processes; and
  • fostering the exchange of information on education, training, research, water and wastewater management, treatment, and other matters of common interest.

More than the provision of 24/7 essential services

The urban water industry has a pivotal role in enhancing mental and physical health with green, liveable spaces. It plays a key role in leading a circular economy that is less linear and more regenerative.

The circular economy is gaining momentum, and the water industry is well positioned as a leading player. Following our paper, Transitioning the Water Industry with the Circular Economy is a companion volume: Circular Economy Action Plan. It includes a series of actions WSAA will lead to help the water industry accelerate towards designing out waste, keeping resources in use, and regenerating natural capital. Our operations give us huge scope to contribute to decarbonisation and sustainability goals while providing opportunities for others.

The water industry is also uniquely positioned to mitigate our impact on our climate. It can respond and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate on delivering our services. The industry is also prepared to improve the resilience of our communities and the environment in adapting to a changing climate. Our Urban Water Industry Climate Change Position seeks to outline the contributions of the urban water industry. They are ready to meet the challenges of climate change through collaboration and partnership with our customers, communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the Māori people, and government stakeholders.

As a signatory to the UN Global Compact, WSAA supports the Sustainable Development Goals as a plan of action for people, the planet and prosperity. As providers of essential services, our members understand that water is critical to sustaining life. We can create so much value collaboratively and through individual and organisational action.

National advocacy supporting industry outcomes

With the change in Federal Government, we have commenced engagement with the new Minister for Environment and Water, The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP and the newly formed Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW). It is encouraging that the Government was elected with a promise to renew the National Water Initiative and re-establish the National Water Commission. Like health, education and transport, there are an increasing number of issues in the urban water industry that should be dealt with collaboratively at the national level.

Updated NWI

We continue to advocate for a new and modernised National Water Initiative (NWI) that includes:

  • a national water security framework for defining and measuring water security. Providing safe and secure water supplies should be a priority for all governments. However, there is no framework to balance the future water supply for all end uses with future demand.
  • all options on the table, including purified recycled water for drinking as part of a diversified water supply portfolio to meet the water security needs of Australia. A bipartisan approach is needed to ensure the inclusion of purified recycled water for drinking as a legitimate part of water supply planning. Through our biennial customer perceptions study, we know that water recycling is strongly supported. Dams are part of the future for Australia’s water security. However, they are too often politicised and put forward as a solution without due regard to transparent financial, social, health and environmental expert advice.
  • uplift of regional, remote, and Indigenous water services. Partnerships across the industry will improve regional performance, focusing on capacity and capability. We also seek to foster connections with Traditional Owners, including recognition of cultural values of water. Water quality issues continue for Aboriginal communities across many parts of Australia. Yet, there is a plethora of government agencies and different (or no) regulations to deliver safe drinking water to First Nations peoples.
  • commitment to liveability and health outcomes through access to blue-green grids, green space and re-naturalisation of creeks and waterways.
  • effectively incorporate all water into the urban environment to create an amenity for people in growth areas and regional communities. Integrating stormwater into the urban water cycle is fundamental to liveability outcomes, and a single waterway manager can overcome the limitations of accountability, planning, operations, and collaboration.

Customers first

Regardless of politics, the common anchor for the industry is the paying customer. In 2021, we surveyed around 9,000 customers across Australia and New Zealand. Our survey highlighted the generally excellent reputation of the industry with significant improvements across the board in trust and value for money. The industry continues to build on this reputation to embrace a new approach to the circular economy. It seeks to accelerate the response to climate change through adaption and mitigation while maintaining affordability and supporting customers in difficulty.

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