The Federal Government has unveiled a new plan to overhaul the nation’s overarching water policy, the National Water Initiative (NWI). 

The revision aims to make significant strides in incorporating advanced climate science and enhancing the participation of First Nations peoples in water management strategies.

Initiated two decades ago, the NWI has been pivotal in synchronising state, territory, and federal water policies, focusing on equitable water sharing and management. 

However, recent audits highlighted the NWI's inadequacies in confronting current and future challenges posed by climate change and population growth. Reviews also noted the NWI's failure to consider the aspirations and rights of First Nations peoples regarding water resources.

According to federal environment and water minister Tanya Plibersek, the revamped NWI will “strengthen the connection between climate science and water planning, alongside a greater consideration of, and influence for, First Nations peoples in water management”. 

It appears that the government is acknowledging the invaluable knowledge First Nations communities bring to environmental conservation and resource management.

The government's discussion paper on the new NWI outlines six objectives aimed at modernising Australia's water management framework to address emerging challenges. 

These include coping with longer and more severe droughts, managing increased flooding risks, and ensuring sustainable water access for a growing population and expanding economic sectors.

Public consultation remains open until May, inviting broader community input into the future of Australia’s water security.

Under the existing NWI, progress was made in separating water rights from land rights, creating water markets, and reducing household water consumption. However, the evolving climate landscape and demographic shifts have rendered these measures insufficient, necessitating a comprehensive policy overhaul.