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National Water Account 2011

What is the National Water Account?

The National Water Account is a Bureau of Meteorology (the Bureau) publication about water resources in Australia. This is a new style of water resource reporting, analogous to financial reporting, that seeks to reconcile water stocks and flows against annual allocations. It does this for nationally significant water management regions.

What is reported in the National Water Account?

The National Water Account provides regional information for a particular reporting period about:

  • changes in water inflows, outflows and storages
  • total water access entitlements on issue
  • relevant water management plans that govern access
  • volume of water allocated for abstraction
  • number of entitlements and allocations that were traded and locations where these occurred
  • volume of water taken for economic use
  • volume of water made available to the environment.
Why is the National Water Account produced?

Under the Commonwealth Water Act 2007 the Bureau of Meteorology has responsibility for the annual publication of the National Water Account. This responsibility was given to the Bureau as part of an extensive program of water reform agreed to by the Council of Australia Governments through the National Water Initiative. The National Water Account supports the overall objective of the National Water Initiative , which is 'to achieve a nationally compatible market, regulatory and planning based system of managing surface and groundwater resources for rural and urban use that optimises economic, social and environmental outcomes'.

How does the National Water Account support sustainable water management?

The National Water Account provides information that has previously been difficult to access or unavailable to general users in a standardised form. It presents a cross-jurisdictional perspective on water and the rights and obligations with respect to that water. This means that there is a clear and comparable basis on which to assess how water was used and shared for economic, social and environmental purposes.

Preparing the National Water Account draws attention to the methods of data collection and ingest and gaps and inconsistencies in information.

Greater transparency of information about water helps to build confidence in the way water is managed. Understanding gaps and limitations is part of the process of identifying where resources need to be directed and technical capacity enhanced. Improved information will contribute to the sustainable management of the natural resources of Australia.

How is the National Water Account produced?

The Bureau of Meteorology works closely with a wide range of organisations in each State and Territory, as well as other Australian Government agencies, to gather the best available data and produce an annual National Water Account. Climate, rainfall and streamflow information collected by the Bureau is combined with water information from State and Territory agencies. Thousands of lines of data and accompanying contextual information are analysed, compiled and reviewed before publication in the National Water Account.

Which regions are included in the National Water Account?

In the 2011 Account 8 significant water regions were reported on. This includes 6 predominantly urban regions - Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, South-East Queensland and Sydney and 2 rural regions - Murray-Darling Basin and Ord. The same 8 regions were in the 2010 Account. This means that vital comparative year data is available for the 2011 Account.

The Bureau of Meteorology assessed Australia's nationally significant water regions in the lead up to the 2010 Account. Significant regions from a water sharing perspective where sufficient data were available, and where resource capacity existed to analyse and develop accounts within the specified timeframe, were selected for inclusion in the National Water Account. In future years, as data availability improves and capacity grows, the National Water Account coverage will expand to encompass other nationally significant, managed water resource systems.

What is the reporting year?

The National Water Account reports on the basis of the financial year. The lag between the end of the reporting year and the publication date arises from the considerable data collection, analysis, compilation and review activities required.

How does the National Water Account relate to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Water Account Australia?

The Bureau of Meteorology's National Water Account (NWA) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics' Water Account Australia (WAA) emphasise different aspects of Australian water resources and the use of these resources by the Australian community. The NWA focuses on the volume of water in the environment, its availability, the rights to abstract water and the actual abstraction over time. The NWA includes information on climate and weather impacts on water availability, along with water management policies and practices. The WAA shows how much water is used by human activity. It focuses on flows of water from the environment to the water supply industry and other economic activities, particularly agriculture and the flows of water from the water supply industry to households and businesses. The WAA also records the monetary values associated with water supplied and used in the economy. A particular feature of the WAA is the ability to link water use to the economic data contained in the System of National Accounts (from which the headline indicator Gross Domestic Product is derived).

The area of intersection between the NWA and WAA is the amount of water abstracted from the environment by the water supply industry and other economic activities. Within a region, the volume, in the NWA, of actual water abstraction is equal to the volume, in the WAA, of water abstracted for own use (agricultural irrigation) plus water abstracted for supply to others. This equivalence facilitates the integration of information from the two accounts. It is important to note however that with the exception of the Murray-Darling Basin, the reporting regions for the two accounts are different. The information sheet provides more detail on Australian Government Water Accounting.

How is the National Water Account different to State water accounting products?

The National Water Account has a national focus and provides a cross-jurisdictional perspective on water resource management, and the rights and obligations with respect to that water. Taking a whole-of-country perspective enables national information comparison and highlights gaps and inconsistencies in data and knowledge, allowing improvements to be made to our national water information base.

State and Territory level water accounting products provide water management information that is tailored to a more local perspective.

Water Accounting

What is water accounting?

Water accounting is a systematic process of identifying, recognising, quantifying, reporting, and assuring:

This definition applies to:

  • information about water
  • the rights and other claims to that water, and
  • the obligations against that water.
Why do we need water accounting?

Water accounting helps to ensures that adequate water measurement, monitoring and reporting systems are in place.

Effective water accounting should:

  • inform users' decisions about the allocation of resources
  • improve public and investor confidence in the amount of water being traded, consumed, recovered and managed for environmental and other public benefit outcomes
  • improve understanding of how water resources are sourced, managed, shared and used.
What are water accounting standards?

Water accounting standards have been developed by the Water Accounting Standards Board. They are being prepared to support the development of water accounting as a robust discipline and to provide guidance on the preparation of general purpose water accounting reports.

The development of the Exposure Draft of Australian Water Accounting Standard 1 is the culmination of over 10 years work by the Australian Government. The current draft standard is backed by the Water Accounting Conceptual Framework which described key concepts and definitions. The Preliminary Australian Water Accounting Standard was published in 2009. This was tested through several pilot programs, including the Pilot National Water Account.

In 2010, the Exposure Draft of Australian Water Accounting Standard 1, which includes a set of four associated model reports was released. The voluntary adoption of this standard and further testing and feedback will contribute to the development of a final Australian Water Accounting Standard 1, scheduled for release in mid 2012

What are General Purpose Water Accounting Reports?

General Purpose Water Accounting Reports are reports in a consistent format as defined in the Exposure Draft of Australian Water Accounting Standard 1 and include the following components:

  • Contextual Statement
  • Accountability Statement
  • Assurance Statement
  • Statement of Water Assets and Water Liabilities
  • Statement of Changes in Water Assets and Water Liabilities
  • Statement of Physical Water Flows
  • Note disclosures.
What is the difference between the water accounting statements?

General Purpose Water Accounting Reports are prepared on both a physical flow and accrual basis.

The physical flow report (Statement of Physical Water Flows) reports the flows that have actually occurred over the reporting period.

In contrast, the accrual reports (Statement of Water Assets and Water Liabilities, Statement of Changes in Water Assets and Water Liabilities) adjust for future outflows or inflows currently attributable to the entity.

For example, when an allocation announcement is made, the water report entity (called a region in the National Water Account) recognises the volume of water allocation as an outflow at the announcement date.

This obligation is shown on the Statement of Changes in Water Assets and Water Liabilities, and therefore the Statement of Water Assets and Water Liabilities as well.

It is not shown in the Statement of Physical Flows until the allocated water has been taken or delivered.

What is the difference between an asset and a water asset?

In general terms, an asset is anything that provides a future benefit, while a water asset is specifically water or a claim on water that provides a future benefit.

For example, where a dam full of water exists, the dam itself might be considered an asset and the stored water behind the dam a water asset.

Economic assets are disclosed in financial accounts, and water assets are disclosed in water accounts.

What is the difference between a liability and a water liability?

In general terms, a liability is defined as an obligation arising from past transactions or events. A water liability is a present commitment which when discharged will result in a decrease in the water asset or an increase in another water liability.


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