There were several notable developments in the concepts and processes underpinning the production of the National Water Account since the release of the Pilot National Water Account in 2009; along with the shift from simply demonstrating capability to producing a credible product. Each of these developments is briefly outlined below.
Notable improvements included:
In 2009, water report entities in the Pilot National Water Account were specified as physical areas and all water within an entity was classed as a water asset as it was ‘held’ within the entity’s boundary. This led to the inclusion of water balance terms such as ‘soil moisture’ and ‘landscape evaporation’ in the water accounting statements, and the classification of soil moisture as a ‘water asset’.
As a result of feedback from the Pilot National Water Account, a revised interpretation of the water report entity was developed, which contains both physical water resource and legal/management elements. That is, the 2010 Account water report entities are specified by:
The physical boundary is a hydrologically-defined geographic region encompassing the full extent of the connected water infrastructure used to provide water services to the region. It defines the extent of the area for which the region’s total water resource is calculated.
The perspective of the selected legal entity(ies) determines the components of the total water resource, which are recognised as water assets and water liabilities and are reported upon in the water accounting statements.
The Pilot National Water Account focused on smaller and more homogeneous reporting areas than those used in the National Water Account 2010. In the 2010 Account, a wider conceptual model framework is used. This framework includes the definition of the groundwater asset in a region and the methods used to quantify groundwater store volumes and fluxes.
A set of principles for representation of the annual groundwater balance in the National Water Account were developed, being:
As part of the ongoing technical methods development that underpins the preparation of the National Water Account, the success of these principles’ use will be evaluated, shaping the approach taken in future years.
The Pilot National Water Account trialled the preparation of reports for a wide range of spatial scales, ranging from a single 554 km2 catchment through to a 1,000,000 km2 multi-jurisdictional basin. While the water accounting approach was successfully applied at both ends of this spatial scale, the National Water Account 2010 shifted away from catchment scale reporting towards regional scale reporting. Reporting at this larger scale better aligns with the intention that the National Water Account provides information about nationally significant water regions.
The emphasis of the Pilot National Water Account was the trialling of a production process and demonstrating what the National Water Account might look like. In comparison, the emphasis of this first National Water Account is the provision of credible information to support decision making. As a result, there is significantly greater focus placed on the use of suitable quality data and the accurate representation of how each region’s water was managed during the 2009–10 reporting period.
One of the key findings of the Pilot National Water Account evaluation was the desirability to expand the number of organisations directly involved in preparing each of the water accounting reports. This approach facilitated the closer involvement of all the parties who held data and information required to prepare the National Water Account.
Water management organisations operating in each region were invited to participate in the preparation of the National Water Account 2010. This meant many new external organisations, who had not previously participated in the Pilot National Water Account, became involved. In recognition of this, the Bureau invested effort into building capacity and understanding within these organisations.
Coordinating the involvement of a large number of organisations presented logistical challenges. This was balanced by the enhanced breadth and depth of information which was gathered and the ongoing strong cooperation and support provided by the organisations involved.
An Accountability Statement is included in each set of water accounting reports. The Exposure Draft of Australian Water Accounting Standard 1 states that an accountability statement’s function is to provide the user with information about whether:
Through consultation and discussion with the National Water Account Committee, it was decided that the accountability statements in the National Water Account 2010 will only focus on the first of these items.
The inclusion of the second item would require the Bureau to gather relevant information from the organisations that hold management responsibilities for the water resources.
The National Water Account Committee advised that gathering this information would be difficult and time-consuming, leading to considerable delay in the release of the water accounting reports. For the user it was determined that the downside of this delay outweighed the benefit of including this information in an accountability statement.
Early in the National Water Account development journey it was recognised that online publication would serve several important objectives:
The water resource management of regions which the National Water Account reports upon are, by their nature, large and multifaceted. The volume and complexity of information in the set of water accounting reports means the more traditional, written report format would be unwieldy for users.