Water Accounting Information and Confidentiality in Australia
Federal Law Review, Vol. 41, 1-37 (2013)
38 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2013
Date Written: 2013
A key objective of Australia's recent national water reforms is to keep water licence and entitlement holders accountable for the amounts of water they extract, trade and use. Water metering and the recording and reporting of water extraction and trading data are processes designed to ensure this accountability, and are central to Australia's water accounting regimes. Yet much of the data necessary to ensure compliance with water licences and access entitlements is not publicly available in Australia. This absence of publicly accessible information is due to a lack of rigour and transparency in statutory water accounting regimes. There are also restrictions imposed by water legislation and the laws of privacy and confidentiality that prevent public access to water accounting data, except in aggregated form. Consequently, commercial and industrial water consumers in Australia are not kept accountable for their consumptive water use and water market objectives are unfulfilled, contrary to the express provisions of the Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Water Initiative ('NWI'). This article argues that statutory and policy frameworks for water accounting in most Australian jurisdictions fail to meet the NWI objectives for national water accounting. In response, it advocates legislative reforms that would facilitate the achievement of these objectives.
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