THE South Australian Council of Social Service has released a new report that casts a light on the issue of access to safe, secure and reliable drinking water services in regional and remote SA.
The Falling through the gaps report, undertaken by water policy consultants Aither, also provides practical steps that can help bring real change, to ensure that communities in these areas can have this fundamental need met.
SACOSS is calling for action on this critical area.
SACOSS chief executive officer Ross Womersley has welcomed the report's insights into the realities of water service provision in rural and regional SA, and some of the key challenges being faced.
"It has long been clear that something needs to be done about access to safe, affordable and reliable drinking water services for people living in regional and remote communities in SA," he said.
"The situation being faced in some communities is simply not okay. We can do better than this, and we must."
Key findings and points made in the Falling through the gaps report include:
One of the problems that has been highlighted in this report, is that there is no one clear source of information or understanding about what is going on.- ROSS WOMERSLEY
"One of the problems that has been highlighted in this report, is that there is no one clear source of information or understanding about what is going on. Different organisations hold different pieces of the picture, but it is fragmented and incomplete," Mr Womersley said.
"As a result, no-one in or out of government knows or understands the magnitude of the problem. So there is a tendency to short-term and sometimes perhaps shortsighted solutions to individual problems where they flare up.
"It's unclear what is an isolated issue and what may be more wide-ranging. The report finds that this contributes to a lack of responsibility and coordinated action.
"The good news is that the work that has been done with this report, which also builds on previous work undertaken in this space, gives us some clear steps to take to fix drinking water supply for people living in regional and remote SA communities."
SACOSS is calling for the government to:
"We know that the Productivity Commission in its draft report has already made a recommendation for states and territories to step up with a commitment to ensuring access to a basic level of safe and reliable water for regional and remote communities. Let's get ahead and see SA lead the way on this. It's the right thing to do for our regional communities, and the right thing to do for our state," Mr Womersley said.
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The report comes as the state government announced this week that consultation was under way on a draft Water Security Statement for SA.
The draft statement aims to provide a snapshot of water security across the state and highlight the actions underway to address existing and emerging water security challenges.
It will give an overview of the state's water resources, how they are used and strategies to make sure our water supplies are secure and reliable into the future.
Environment and Water Minister David Speirs said having an acceptable quantity and quality of water for people, communities, industry and the environment that was affordable now and into the future was essential.
"Past water-related investments in infrastructure and reforms across SA have provided high levels of water security for the vast majority of the state's population," he said.
"Water availability, however, is projected to decline across the state under a changing climate and there is also increasing demand for water to support growth in agriculture, mining and energy, as well as for growing towns and cities.
The key challenge now is to build on past investment to ensure all South Australians have adequate water security and to grow the state's economy in a sustainable way.- DAVID SPEIRS
"The key challenge now is to build on past investment to ensure all South Australians have adequate water security and to grow the state's economy in a sustainable way.
The strategic priorities will form the basis for the state government's water security program from now until July 2024.
"A key new element of our proposed water security program includes the development of targeted water security strategies," Mr Speirs said.
"These strategies will supplement traditional water planning in regions, or for sectors, where there is evidence that a lack of water may limit long-term growth.
"People, communities, industry and the environment all rely on ongoing, reliable and affordable access to water and water security planning will be critical to safeguard our water supplies into the future.
"We would like to hear the community's thoughts on the draft Water Security Statement."
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