Frequently Asked Questions

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National Water Account

What is the National Water Account?

The National Water Account is Australia’s most comprehensive water information report. Published annually, it provides a picture of water resources management for the previous financial year for nine nationally significant water use regions.

It discloses information about water stores and flows, water rights and water use and reports on the volumes of water traded, extracted and managed for economic, social, cultural and environmental benefit.

The National Summary publication highlights broad trends and findings across the reporting reports. It summarises the major water initiatives, water access and entitlements and water trade across the country.

Why is the National Water Account produced?

Under the Commonwealth Water Act 2007 the Bureau has responsibility for the annual publication of the National Water Account.

This responsibility was given to the Bureau as part of a national water reform program agreed to by the Council of Australia Governments to increase the transparency of information about water to inform water management. Greater transparency of information about water helps to build confidence in the way water is managed.

The National Water Account provides information that has previously been difficult to access or unavailable in a standardised form. Preparing the National Water Account also helps identify and understand information gaps and limitations in data collection methods so that they can be addressed better.

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. Climate, rainfall and streamflow information collected by the Bureau is added. Thousands of lines of data and accompanying contextual information are analysed, compiled and reviewed before publication in the National Water Account.

The preparation and presentation of the National Water Account is guided by the Australian Water Accounting Standard 1.

Which regions are included in the National Water Account?

The National Water Account reports on nine nationally significant water use regions across Australia. The regions reported in the National Water Account 2013 are:

  • Adelaide
  • Canberra
  • Daly
  • Melbourne
  • Murray-Darling Basin
  • Ord
  • Perth
  • South-East Queensland
  • Sydney

The Daly region was added in the 2012 Account. More regions will be added in the future.

What is the reporting year?

The National Water Account reports on the year 1 July to 30 June.

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 and the Australian Bureau of Statistics' Water Account Australia emphasise different aspects of Australian water resources and the use of these resources by the Australian community.

The National Water Account focuses on the volume of water in the environment, its availability, the rights to abstract water and the actual abstraction over time. It includes information on climate and weather impacts on water availability, along with water management policies and practices.

The Water Account Australia 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 Water Account Australia also records the monetary values associated with water supplied and used in the economy and is able 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 accounts 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 National Water Account, of actual water abstraction is equal to the volume, in the Water Account Australia, 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 national perspective enables comparison and highlights gaps and inconsistencies in data and knowledge, allowing improvements to be made to water information base.

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

What is water accounting?

Water accounting is the systematic process of identifying, recognising, quantifying, reporting, and assuring information about water, the rights or other claims to that water, and the obligations against that water.

Water accounting combines the science of hydrology with financial accounting models to help ensure that adequate water measurement, monitoring and reporting systems are in place.

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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