The National Water Commission (NWC) was established in 2004 through the intergovernmental agreement on the National Water Initiative (NWI) under the auspices of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). The Federal Government announced the abolition of the NWC in the 2014-15 Budget, however, the National Water Commission (Abolition) Bill 2014 did not pass during the last session of Parliament and is expected to be reintroduced in 2015.
The Commission had three core functions: monitoring, audit, and assessment of national water issues. Additional functions were assigned under other Commonwealth acts and regulations:
- The Water Act 2007 assigned an ongoing function to audit the effectiveness of the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and associated water resource plans. The Commission is required to conduct its first audit by March 2013 and subsequently no later than five years from the conduct of the first audit
- In 2011, the Commission was delegated additional functions under the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Regulations 2011
Water Use and CSG
The NWC delivered its third biannual assessment of the national water initiative (NWI) in September 2011, which examined the issue of water use in the coal seam gas (CSG) industry. The report found that:
- CSG mining in Australia has created a yawning gulf between agriculture, mining companies and governments
- Farmers believe the effects of CSG extraction on water resources and the industrialisation of agricultural lands threatens the future of agricultural production in Australia
- Evidence of numerous affects of CSG extraction on water included burning water bores due to CSG intrusion into water reserves, contaminated water sources and increasingly salty water in some areas. These "affects" (contaminations) occurred on prime agricultural lands
- CSG activities had a significant impact on ground water and surface water resources and mining activities have a substantial impact on the water system as a whole, bringing significant risks to the sustainable management of water resources and creating risk for other users such as farmers.