History of the National Water Account

The Commonwealth Water Act 2007 requires that the Director of Meteorology annually publish the National Water Account in a form readily accessible by the public.

In December 2008, the Bureau of Meteorology, with the cooperation and assistance of the lead water agencies in each State and Territory, began the journey towards the regular publication of the National Water Account.

The National Water Account is a new style of water reporting which brings together hydrology and financial accounting. A 10 year timeframe is envisaged for the development of a mature National Water Account and a continuous improvement strategy has been adopted. This involves cycles of evaluation and review leading to developments in methods, coverage and presentation.

The following summarise the key achievements in each annual National Water Account and the initial pilot.

National Water Account 2013

The National Water Account 2013 will be published earlier than previous reports, due to improved processes and systems and the support of reporting partners.

The consistency and quality of region accounts have also been improved, maps and icons have been redesigned so they are clearer and easier to understand.

The new region overviews and the National Summary publication, which were first produced in the National Water Account 2012, have refined following user feedback.

National Water Account 2012

Geographic coverage was increased with the introduction of a new region, the Daly in the Northern Territory. This important tropical area is under considerable development pressure and has significant environmental and cultural water value.

The first Daly report summarised Indigenous cultural values and needs in the water sharing process and this approach will be reported on for other National Water Account regions in the future.

Feedback from stakeholders and users led to the development of the following enhancements:

  • National Water Account 2012 Summary- highlights broad trends and findings across the nine reporting regions. It summarises the major water initiatives, water access and entitlements, and water trade across the country.
  • Region overviews - highlights the climate, surface water storage, urban water supply and irrigation supply in each region.
  • National Water Account Companion Guide- provides a written and schematic overview of the concepts which shape the National Water Account. It describes how the physical environment is conceptualised, the way water accounting regions are defined, and what makes up the water assets and water liabilities of the region.

National Water Account 2011

The preparation of the National Water Account 2011 was informed by the evaluation of the National Water Account 2010 with the focus on streamlining the preparation and publication process, refining technical methods and clarifying the interpretation of underlying concepts.

The National Water Account 2011 incorporated a number of enhancements including:

  • Presenting a comparison year along side the reporting year in the Water Accounting Statements to assist in providing important insights into changes to the water regime.
  • The water accounting statements were comprehensively revised and simplified.
  • Segment reporting for the Murray–Darling Basin provided increased detail about water management in sub-areas of the Basin.
  • Review and restructure of the notes in the water accounting reports.

National Water Account 2010

Learning's from the Pilot National Water Account were actioned in preparing the first National Water Account. The Bureau established partnerships with 38 organisations. This enabled a cooperative approach where the Bureau and these organisations jointly developed the content. Planning included defining the scope of information to be contained in the eight water accounting reports along with their geographic boundaries.

Pilot National Water Account

The Pilot National Water Account published in December 2009 demonstrated the breadth of information being considered for inclusion in the National Water Account. It tested a range of methods and processes.

Feedback and knowledge gained through this process guided the shape, content and structure of the first National Water Account.

Pilot water accounting reports were trialled for seven regions with differing spatial scales and hydrological conditions. Four of these regions were published in the Pilot Account. The regions trialled in the Pilot Account are shown below:

  • South East Queensland
  • Namoi-Peel catchment (published)
  • Murrumbidgee catchment (published)
  • Murray–Darling Basin (published)
  • Melbourne region
  • Onkaparinga catchment (published)
  • Gnangara Mound.


In late 2008 the Council of Australian Governments established a National Water Account Committee and requested the development of a roadmap. The Committee has an important role in providing advice to the Bureau about the development and refinement of the National Water Account.

The Roadmap set out the steps for publication of the pilot account in December 2009 and the first National Water Account 2010.

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