Water stewardship

Water availability and security of supply is a critical business risk for the minerals industry as an essential input to mining and minerals processing and maintaining safety. 

The mining sector is a relatively small water user, accounting for less than 3.7 per cent of national water consumption in 2014-15. By comparison, agriculture (including forestry and fishing) consumed 60 percent and households consumed a further 12 per cent.(i)

The minerals sector is one of the highest value water users in Australia.  In 2016-17,  the gross value add per gigalitre of water used by mining ranged between $111 million and $127 million,, compared to $4 million for agriculture.(ii) Water access represents a significant potential constraint on further investment and expansion of the minerals sector at a substantial cost to the industry and broader economy in lost production.(ii)

Minerals industry water policy

Water is a key intersection between mining and other land users.  The industry recognises that water has social, cultural, environmental and economic values at a local, regional and national level. Accordingly, how the minerals industry accesses and manages water is critical to the industry’s social licence to operate.  The MCA has developed a comprehensive water policy which provides the minerals industry’s position on the range of these intersecting issues.

The industry is a strong supporter of national water reform, including the removal of barriers to market entry and the development of water trading markets based on sound pricing principles, taking account of water quantity, quality and the needs of diverse users.

Water accounting

The minerals industry can be a significant water user in some regions.  Accordingly, the industry is committed to active and open engagement with stakeholders including other water users within regions to support regional economic development and diversity and to maximise beneficial re-use of recycled water.

The MCA has led a landmark effort to better understand the industry’s water use (and future needs) through the development of a water accounting framework for the Australian minerals industry.


(i) Australian Bureau of Statistics, Water Account, Australia 2015-16, water use tables, ABS catalogue no. 4610.0, released 23 November 2017
(ii) ibid
(ii) ACIL Tasman, Water Reform and Industry, Prepared for Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, April 2007