The delivery of safe drinking water plays a critical role in the viability, self-determination, and sustainability of First Nations remote communities. Water is core to life and has an important role in connection to Country.
Outside of Australia’s capital cities, it can be particularly challenging to deliver water services to remote areas of the country – with incredibly varied landscapes, from desert to tropical savannah, often extreme and robust micro-climates, and the challenge of long transport times through tough terrain. These areas are, however, not empty, and to the members of many small First Nations communities, this is their Country, this is their home, it is not remote.
|Many communities report concerns about their water supplies – with taste, smell, odour, contamination. This is backed up by evidence from various reputable health and epidemiological studies, plus water quality reports from utilities and service providers, which reveal that water quality issues are persistent and in some cases getting worse, in remote communities.
|Delays in maintenance and poor customer service compound these issues, increasing the cost of living and leading to neglect. Communities report distrusting government, and that people in remote communities prefer to drink bottled water or soft drinks over tap water. Studies by the Productivity Commission (2021) and Infrastructure Australia (2021) have identified shortcomings in provision of services to remote communities, but there is a lack of available and consistent information.
|Most of us take safe drinking water for granted; but as a number of reports have noted, Australia is falling short in its delivery of services to First Nations remote communities, as measured against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Case Studies from the Closing the Water for People and Communities Gap report
- Case Study 1: Looking back on the Blanchard Report
- Case Study 2: Minimum levels of service
- Case Study 3: Stakeholder consultations with Central Australian communities
- Case Study 4: The struggle for good quality drinking water in Alpurrurulam
- Case Study 5: Concerns over water quality in remote Queensland
- Case Study 6: Kwatja Ngkama (Talking Water): a voice to First Nations peoples
- Case Study 7: That’s My Water Bush Schools Program
- Case Study 8; A successful Aboriginal engagement: the case of Borroloola
- Case Study 9: SA Water – Building community resilience
- Case Study 10: First Nations engagement and economic participation
- Case Study 11: A novel partnership between Power and Water and Water Corporation
- Case Study 12: A unique and novel approach to engagement
- Case Study 13: The Torres Strait Region
- Case Study 14: The story of Kuuku I’yu Northern Kaanju homelands
- Case Study 15: Safe and Healthy Drinking Water in Indigenous Local Government Areas Program
In 2021, WSAA commissioned Eric Vanweydeveld, who has spent many years working on water quality and First Nations engagement in the water industry, to research and…
A review on the management of drinking water supplies in Indigenous remote communities around Australia The full report is available on the WSAA website here…