The Water industry in Australia has an estimated annual revenue of $22.68 billion, adding $11.38 billion to the Australian economy in 2019-20. The industry employs 27,700 people across its sub-sectors: water supply, sewerage, drainage services and pipeline transport (water) and includes 850 individual enterprises.

Key Water Metrics

  • Revenue ($b) 22.68 (2020-2021)
  • Added value ($b) 11.38
  • No of Businesses 850
  • Employs 27,700 people
  • Expected Employment Growth to 2026 (%) 7.9
  • Scope: Sewerage and Drainage Services, Water Supply

Australian Industry Standards – 2021 Outlook

Key Water Facts

  • 76,159 gigalitres (GL) of water extracted for use in the Australia economy 2016-171
  • Of this, 16,558 GL was used for supply and distribution to industry and households1
  • Over 60,000 GL in non-consumption uses (e.g., hydroelectricity generation)1
  • On average, every GL consumed produces $108 million of economic output2
  • Over 820 dams in Australia Highest per-capita surface water storage capacity in the world3
  • Over 575 GL supplied annually across Australia, costing $1-4 per kilolitre to produce4
  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2019) 4610.0 Water Account, Australia, 2016-17.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017) Household water increases 3% (media release).
  3. Australian Water Association (no date) Large dam fact sheet.
  4. Australian Water Association (no date) Desalination fact sheet.

Who Manages Regional and Urban Water?

The management of major-urban, and smaller regional-urban, water and wastewater supplies in Australia is, for the most part, the responsibility of State Governments and Local Government and varies across the six states and two territories.

The largest water and wastewater utilities in several states are incorporated companies, with State governments as their major shareholders. These arrangements apply in:

Western Australia (Water Corporation),

South Australia (SA Water),

Northern Territory (Power and Water Corp) and the

Australian Capital Territory (Icon Water).

Utilities owned by local governments provide services in regional areas of Queensland.

In South East Queensland, one bulk supplier (Seqwater) supplies water to five retail distributors.

Tasmania is serviced by one integrated utility, Taswater, owned by Tasmania’s 29 local governments.

In Victoria, New South Wales and Southeast Queensland, state-owned utilities provide bulk water which is then distributed by utilities owned by either local or state governments.

Of the 85 utilities who provided data to the Federal Government performance report in 2018/19, 71 provided both reticulated water supply and sewerage services and 14 provided only water supply or sewerage services.

Infrastructure Australia counts 196 businesses and local governments in Australia who provide water services.

Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019

Figure 1 Map of Australian Water Utilities (WSAA 2023)

In states where there are multiple small utilities a number of organisations exist to support cooperation and advocate at the State and Australian Government level. In Victoria, VicWater, a not-for-profit industry association, acts as a peak association for water corporations. In NSW, the Water Directorate offers support to councils on water and sewerage operations, and in Queensland, qldwater provides advice and advocacy to the Queensland urban water industry.

At the Australian Government level, the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is responsible for water policies. Programs from the Australian Government tend to be issue specific, given that everyday operations are largely the responsibility of State authorities.

When we refer to the urban water industry in Australia we usually mean the management of water and wastewater in the major urban and regional population centres. In most states and territories the broader management of waterways and catchments is the responsibility of separate agencies. However, the mix of responsibilities can be quite complex with some utilities also being responsible for the supply of water for agriculture and the management of water supply catchments.

Crucially, for the water industry, the Australian Government, National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) provides standardised policy for water quality through the National Water Quality Management Strategy. Key components of the strategy provide guidance to the States and include, the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, the Australian Guidelines for Water RecyclingGuidelines for Managing Risks in Recreational Water and a number of health related standards covering PFAS and fluoridation.




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