The South Australian Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department for Water will form a single agency after the State Government handed down its 2012-13 Budget.

Treasurer Jack Snelling said the merger will bring together all the policy makers, project managers, natural resource planners and scientists in the areas of environment, conservation, water and natural resource planning.

“Bringing together the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department for Water will result in a more integrated department able to more effectively manage our natural and water resources with increased efficiency," Mr Snelling said.

The Victorian Government is urging the public to submit their comments on the future of the state’s water management fter a number of the sate’s water aurthorities released consultation papers on their draft water plans.

Legislation to establish an independent expert scientific committee to provide advice on impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining proposals on our water resources has passed the House of Representatives.


Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said the legislation would allow for more rigorous scientific assessment of coal seam gas and large coal mining proposals, in particular how these proposals will affect underground water resources and our rivers.


"I know that there is significant community concern about the impact of coal seam gas and coal mining developments on our water resources," Mr Burke said.


"That's why the Gillard Government has acted to create The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development.


"We want to make sure that decisions by governments in relation to coal and coal seam gas developments are informed by the most rigorous scientific evidence available, in particular where those developments are likely to have a significant impact on water.


"The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development will play a vital role in ensuring that independent scientific advice is available to all governments when they consider applications for these types of developments.


"In this way, we have established the independent committee and we have funded it.


"It will provide local communities and other stakeholders with accessible and reliable information as well as giving the coal seam gas and mining industries greater guidance on the sustainable management of water resources in areas where they propose developments."


An interim committee was set up in January pending formal establishment of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee. The interim committee has already provided valuable independent advice to the Australian Government and will continue until it hands over to the new committee from 1 July, 2012.


The legislation, which amends the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to set up the committee, will now be introduced into the Senate.


Mr Burke said the committee would provide advice on research priorities that address critical gaps in scientific understanding, and oversee research commissioned by myself in line with those research priorities.


"When requested, the committee will provide further evidence to inform regulatory decisions made by governments," Mr Burke said.


"It will provide advice on options for increasing the quality and accessibility of knowledge available on the impacts to water resources from coal seam gas and large coal mining developments, for example, in the collection of data.


"The committee's work will be supported by a national partnership agreement with relevant state and territory governments that will require them to seek and take account of the committee's advice when considering approvals for coal seam gas and large coal mining developments.


"So far Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia have signed the agreement – negotiations with Victoria and the Northern Territory are continuing."


Mr Burke said the committee would also provide advice on the priority areas for bioregional assessments and oversee their delivery. The interim committee has started work on the first five bioregional assessments in regions facing significant levels of coal seam gas and coal mining developments, such as the Galilee, Gunnedah, Gloucester and Clarence-Moreton basins.


The Australian Government has provided $200 million to establish the new Independent Expert Scientific Committee and assist states that are parties to the national partnership agreement to introduce the necessary reforms to seek the committee's advice when deciding on coal seam gas and coal mining applications.


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A new class of biosensor that can detect exceptionally small traces of contaminants in liquids in just 40 minutes has been developed by a UNSW-led team of researchers.

Federal funding of almost $4 million has been announced to support the adoption of the eWater ‘Source’ platform to aid water planning and management across Australia. It is matched by a combined New South Wales, Victorian, Queensland, South Australian, ACT and Northern Territory government contribution, bringing the total funding to nearly $8 million.

New research has identified better ways to predict how climate change and water management practices will affect fish populations and river red gum forests in the southern Murray-Darling Basin.

Led by Professor Ralph Mac Nally, scientists from Monash University's Australian Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) developed models that linked ecology and hydrology to better inform management of Australia's river systems in the face of increasing water scarcity.

Professor Mac Nally, Director of the ACB, said the results highlighted the importance of water-management practices to the future viability of Australia's river systems, showing that management may pose a greater risk than climate change for some fish species.

"We found that the effects of different water-management regimes were more important than the impacts of a drying climate for some of the fish populations, but the floodplain forests have been badly affected by both," Professor Mac Nally said.

"Improving the ecological health of Australia’s river systems, while maintaining agricultural outputs and human use, will require careful balancing of the compromises among different water users."

Responding to the brief of 'do more with less water', the team, including Jian Yen, Danny Spring and Will Shenton from the ACB, and Nick Bond from Griffith University, contributed to the $10 million Farms, Rivers and Markets project funded by the National Water Commission. The research focused on the Murray-Darling Basin, currently the source of much controversy over the division of water to agriculture, to domestic use and to maintain healthy rivers.

“This was an exciting opportunity to bring advances in fundamental and applied ecology to bear on the social and economic well-being of the nation’s bread-basket, the Murray-Darling Basin,” Professor Mac Nally said.

"We've recently experienced southeastern Australia's longest recorded drought and predictions point to a drier and hotter future. Finding advanced ways to meet the needs of all water users is an important research area with high significance to Australia’s future."

The outcomes of the research, soon to be published in Environmental Management, will be integrated with parallel research from The University of Melbourne on farm management and the economics of water trading. It is the first project to link these three vital aspects of resource management. 

The article is available online in advance of print publication.

The Western Australian Government has called for comment on the development of a plan to ensure continued availability of high quality drinking water in Esperance.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has released changes to its Basin Plan to ministers as part of the Authority’s process of developing the finalised plan.

East Gippsland Water has announced there will be no real increase in water bills for average residential customers for five years under a proposal put forward by the corporation. Prices will only adjust in line with inflation.


This is one of a number of proposals put forward by East Gippsland Water in its draft Water Plan for 2013-2018, Water Plan 3, which is now available for customer and stakeholder comment.


Other highlights in the draft include:

  • giving customers more control over their bill by reducing the fixed charge of both water and wastewater components and increasing the water usage portion. This means customers who use less water will pay lower bills;
  • a proposal to spend around $9 million a year on essential major works - Such as progressing a major upgrade to Bairnsdale Wastewater Treatment Plant, upgrading the sewer networks in Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance and renewing sections of ageing water pipeline across East Gippsland;
  • expenditure of around $17.5 million a year to maintain and operate water and wastewater infrastructure;
  •  the introduction of Guaranteed Service Levels – This means customers who receive a significantly poor level of service in one of five key areas, will be compensated financially.

To view the draft plan and consultation details, visit the website and click on the ‘Water Plan 3’ link. Five fact sheets have also been prepared to explain areas of greatest interest and are on the same link.


Comments should be emailed by 31 July  to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or posted to ‘Water Plan 3’, East Gippsland Water, PO Box 52, Bairnsdale, Vic, 3875.

One of the Victorian Water industry’s most experienced and well-regarded leaders has been appointed Managing Director of Western Water, Board Chairman Terry Larkins has announced.

Australia’s consulting engineering, architecture and associated industries are set to experience a chaotic next three years with continual restructures required in order to remain globally competitive, according to Consult Australia’s 2012 Economic Forecast report.

The Report, written by former BHP Chief Economist, Geoffrey Bills is considered one of the industry’s most valuable economic predictors and is used by many of Australia’s largest firms, including Parsons Brinkerhoff, SMEC, Hyder, GHD and AECOM.

In the short-term, the Report forecasts a fairly rosy future for the industry.

The backlog of work in engineering construction is set to sustain high levels of activity until 2016 with firms operating in this space expected to experience 22 per cent growth over the next 12 months.

Consult Australia CEO, Megan Motto said this signifies a welcome commitment to infrastructure development in the short-term but warned it wasn’t all good news.

The South Australian Government has announced a one off Water Security Rebate aimed at alleviating the cost of increased water prices, which are anticipated to rise 26 per cent.

The Tasmanian Government has announced it will allocate $52 million for the construction and further development of the Midlands, Lower South Esk and Kindred North Motton irrigation schemes.

The Victorian Government has announced an agreement that will stop the last discharge of industrial wastewater into the Yarra River.

The Western Australian Government has announced the formation of a new water allocation plan for the State’s Peel region, aimed at providing water certainty for groundwater availability for a range of key industries.

The Victorian Government has released modelling that it says shows that the health of the Murray River can be secured using significantly less water for environmental flow.

The Victorian Government has announced the appointment of Chris Chesterfield as the Chief Executive Officer of the newly established Office of Living Victoria (OLV).

Ten new desalination research projects will share in $2.7 million from the Australian Government funded National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australia (NCEDA).

The Federal Government has launched the new $3.8 million upgrade to Karratha’s Wastewater Recycling and Conveyance System, which is expected to increase the supply of recycled water to the town by over 150 million litres a year.

Abigroup has won a $40 million contract by the Hunter Water Corporation to construct a new water recycling plant as part of the broader Hunter Treatment Alliance suite of works.

NSW Water Commissioner, David Harriss, has invited comment on the proposed water shepherding arrangements for the Barwon-Darling river system and its tributaries.

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