The Minerals Council of Australia welcomes the Federal Government’s ongoing commitment to continuing the development of market based mechanisms for secure, sustainable and efficient water access as outlined in today’s National Water Initiative 2011 Assessment.

The Australian minerals industry has a strong reputation as both an efficient and innovative manager of water and is a strong supporter of the national water reform process.

The MCA welcomes the NWC’s commitment to progress measures related to water quality within market arrangements and to move to a more strategic process of assessing water use in natural resource management and land use planning.

Such an approach is essential to ensure that water flows to its highest value use and that water users are encourages to apply a ‘fit for purpose’ approach rather than unnecessarily utilising high quality potable water supplies for activities which could utilise lower quality water.

The MCA supports the call from the NWC for COAG leadership to reinvigorate the water reform agenda and to deliver on the objectives of the NWI.

Only through a coordinated approach between governments at all levels involving industry, the scientific community and Indigenous leaders can we ensure the effective use and management of Australia’s water resources both now and into the future.

The minerals sector is responsible for around 2.4 per cent of Australia’s net water consumption with the value added per mega litre (ML) of water amongst the highest of all industry sectors.  According to official data, coal mining generates $86,000 for every ML used, compared with $162 per ML for rice production and $3870 per ML for vegetable production. 1

The MCA has developed a water accounting framework for the minerals industry as a platform for nationally consistent reporting of industry water access, use, reuse and disposal.

As a temporary user of water, often in areas where there is no competing industrial uses, the minerals industry presents a genuine opportunity to ensure sustainable development outcomes from the use of Australia’s surface and ground waters.

To enable this to occur, Governments must streamline the mining approvals process to remove the range of legislative barriers that restrict the minerals industry’s ability to fully engage in water markets where these exist. Further, Clause 34 of the National Water Initiative, which recognises the temporary nature of mining water use, will remain a critical measure in those circumstances where a properly functioning water market does not exist.

1 ACIL Tasman, Water Reform and Industry, Report prepared for the Department of Industry, Tourism and  Resources, April 2007

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