Town and city water security

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Water supply and resilience for town and city populations
High Priority Initiative
Problem/Opportunity timeframe
Various (0-15 years)
Proposed By
Infrastructure Australia identified initiative
Date added to the IPL
26 February 2020


Australia’s urban water infrastructure is critical for the liveability and prosperity of more than 20 million people and 9 million connected properties in our towns and cities. It also serves industries, supporting growth in productivity and employment across the country.

The role of water in the public realm is also diverse. For instance, as well as drinking water, water plays an important role supporting urban cooling and amenity.

The 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit found that the ‘urban water sector faces challenges, including the impacts of climate change, population growth, ageing assets, and changing needs and expectations from users. Failure to adequately address these challenges could lead to rising water bills, as well as exposing users to risks of declining service quality and reliability’.

Without appropriately planning for these challenges, there could be severe urban water shortages or restrictions in many parts of the country.

For regional towns, water utilities often rely on a single supply source, with no physical link to an alternative bulk water supply. The lack of supply diversification creates further water security risks for these communities.

Proposed initiative

The initiative is for a mix of infrastructure and non-infrastructure responses, such as demand management, to efficiently meet agreed service standards for water security in Australia’s towns and cities. Infrastructure interventions for towns and cities could involve new water sources, such as recycling and desalination.

Long-term urban water planning will need to be supported by stronger institutional arrangements, as recognised in the High Priority Initiative for a National water strategy, which is separately included on the Infrastructure Priority List.

Collaboration and knowledge sharing will also be important to achieve the best outcomes, taking into account the roles and responsibilities of state, territory and local governments.

Next steps

Proponent(s) to be identified.