The Commonwealth Government of Australia has three arms of government, which are the legislative arm, the executive arm and the judiciary arm. The Australian Government can make laws on different issues under Section 51 of the Constitution. The six states in Australia are as follows:
Regulatory framework for drinking water, wastewater discharge and reuse
In Australia, responsibility for environmental management is shared by the Commonwealth and the state and territory governments. Regulatory authority and jurisdiction for water fall primarily to the state and territory governments, while the Commonwealth government retains some level of oversight. The state and territory governments have authority over the water within their borders to develop and implement appropriate water management plans in cooperation with the Commonwealth. Local governments under the direction of their state or territory government may also have some level of jurisdiction at the community level.
Under the Water Act of 2007, the MDBA is required to establish the mandatory content of the Basin Plan. This includes the following:
Drinking water quality regulations
The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) document was published in 2004 to authoritatively define safe and good quality water and reference how it can be achieved and assured. The appropriate implementation of the ADWG framework allows for the effective management of drinking water supplies to assure safety at the point of use. In 2007 NHMRC/NRMMC began a rolling revision of the guidelines to ensure the guidelines represent the most up to date scientific understanding. The most recent draft amendment was performed in 2010 and included revisions in microbial and chemical guideline values.
Municipal and industrial wastewater quality regulations
The regulatory framework for wastewater in Australia is similar to the drinking water framework, as state and territory governments retain jurisdiction over wastewater management. Under the NWQMS, the Commonwealth government has developed guidelines for the management of wastewater. Under sewerage management, the following guidelines have been developed:
Water reuse regulations
The terms ‘recycled water’ and ‘reclaimed water’ have been used interchangeably in Australia to describe treated wastewater that will be used for beneficial applications, with ‘recycled water’ being the term most currently used. Recycled water is defined as “treated effluent that is used by either the water utility itself, a business supplied by the water utility, or supplied through a third pipe system for urban reuse. Recycled water can be provided for onsite reuse, agriculture, irrigation, industry, potable or other uses external to the treatment process”. For the purposes of this chapter the terms ‘recycled water’ and ‘reclaimed water’ water will be represented by ‘water reuse’ unless specifically stated in the title of a Law, Act, Standard, Guideline or Policy.
Water in industry: Mining
Mining is the most significant economic industry in Australia. This industry accounts for 51.4% of all exports and contributes 8% of the GDP each year. Mining operations take place in all states and territories with the Pilbara, Goldfields and Peel regions of Western Australia, the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, the Bowen Basin in Queensland, Latrobe Valley in Victoria and the Olympic Dam region in South Australia being major mining regions. Australia has the largest economically demonstrated resources for numerous commodities including gold, uranium, lead, zinc, nickel and brown coal. Water efficiency is of significant importance as mining operations in Australia take place in very arid locations that are facing water scarcity issues. As water is critical to meeting mine site needs, water allocations legislation is of paramount importance to the industry.
Future regulatory scenario and conclusions
The decentralised nature of the regulatory and legislative framework in Australia makes the adoption of singular sets of standards difficult. Commonwealth guidelines are not mandatory and the onus is left with the state and territory governments to set standards they deem appropriate. However most of the national guidelines are under continuous review and are updated to comply with the most recent scientific standards.
List of laws, standards and policies