Development of the National Water Account
As part of its national water information mission, the Bureau of Meteorology is required under the Water Act 2007 to publish an annual National Water Account. The initial mandate for water accounting came in 2004 from the Council of Australian Governments in the National Water Initiative. The National Water Account builds upon the significant water accounting activities accomplished through the implementation of the National Water Initiative and related programs.
The purpose of the National Water Account is to report on the total water resource, the water available for abstraction, the rights to abstract and the actual abstractions.
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.
National Water Account Roadmap
In late 2008 Council of Australian Governments resolved that a National Water Account Committee be established and that a National Water Account Roadmap (the Roadmap) should be developed. The Committee has had an important role in supporting the Bureau in producing a pilot and then the first National Water Account.
The Roadmap set out the steps for publication of a pilot version of the National Water Account in December 2009 and the comprehensive first National Water Account 2010. The significant milestones identified in the roadmap have been achieved.
Pilot National Water Account
The Pilot National Water Account, published in Dec 2009, demonstrated the breadth of information being considered for inclusion in the National Water Account. It tested a range of methods and processes necessary to produce the National Water Account. The Pilot contained demonstration water accounting reports for South-East Queensland region (Qld), Namoi-Peel catchment (NSW), Murrumbidgee catchment (NSW), Murray-Darling Basin, Melbourne region (Vic), Onkaparinga catchment (SA) and Gnangara Mound (WA).
Feedback and knowledge gained through this process guided the shape, content and structure of the 2010 Account.
The first National Water Account
The first National Water Account was published in 2011 for the reporting year 2009–10. The 2010 Account reported on most of the high-intensity water use regions of Australia, covering six capital city and two rural regions. There are many competing demands for the water in these regions.
The 2010 Account was prepared by the Bureau in partnership with some 30 water agencies across Australia, with contributions by a further seven organisations.
A cooperative approach was taken to the production of the 2010 Account, with the Bureau and reporting partners jointly developing the content. Planning included defining the scope of information to be contained in the eight water accounting reports along with their geographic boundaries.
The preparation and presentation of the 2010 Account was guided by the first Australian Water Accounting Standard, in its exposure draft form.
The 2011 Account – refinement of processes and methods
The outcomes of the 2010 Account evaluation informed the preparation of the National Water Account 2011 with the focus on streamlining the preparation and publication process, refining technical methods and clarifying the interpretation of underlying concepts.
The Bureau improved the overall production process through investment in data management tools and improved project management to help ensure timely and effective communication between the many contributors.
The 2011 Account included a number of notable enhancements. For the first time the Water Accounting Statements included both a reporting year and a comparative year. Segment reporting for the Murray-Darling Basin provided increased detail about water management in sub-areas of the Basin. In response to feedback on the 2010 Account, the notes in the water accounting reports were restructured and the Water Accounting Statements simplified.
The 2012 Account – consolidation and ongoing refinement
The National Water Account 2012 includes new regional summaries which provide a snapshot of each water account including its climate, surface water storage, urban water supply and irrigation water supply.
The Daly region in the Northern Territory is an addition to the 2012 Account. It is an important tropical region under considerable development pressure with significant environmental and cultural water values.
In response to requests for more supporting material a Companion Guide has been released with the 2012 Account. The Companion Guide provides an overview of the concepts used in the National Water Account and includes information about how physical environments are conceptualised, the way water accounting regions are defined and what constitutes the water assets and liabilities of each region.
Understanding water information user needs
The Bureau has an on-going program to seek input from potential users of the National Water Account. In 2011 the Bureau undertook a series of interviews and surveys with priority users to better understand their information needs. This feedback has helped define the requirements for supportive and interpretive materials. These materials will assist users extract maximum value from the information provided in the National Water Account.
Ongoing development of the National Water Account
The National Water Account Roadmap is being reviewed and a strategic plan for the continuing development of the National Water Account is being prepared. Annual production will be followed by evaluations of technical methods, data ingest, project management and project governance. Priorities for expanded geographic coverage and refinements are being developed and user input continues to inform the development of the National Water Account.