The Water Industry Act 2012 (the Act) is an Act to regulate the water and sewerage industry. It governs all water industry entities that provide retail services to South Australian customers.
Broadly the Act is designed to:
- facilitate planning for water security through preparation of a State demand and supply statement
- license retail services for the provision of water and sewerage
- manage the water and sewerage industry, including: price regulation, customer service standards, and technical standards for water and sewerage infrastructure, installations and plumbing.
The concept of a new Act to manage the water industry was first proposed in 2009. The intent was to establish a regulatory framework that promoted an efficient, competitive and innovative water industry, while protecting the long-term interests of customers, public health and the environment.
The need for new water industry legislation was driven by several factors, including:
- heightened community awareness about water security and the need to manage water resources carefully
- the prospect of an increasingly diverse range of water supplies, including through new and emerging technologies
- the prospect of new participants in the water industry
- the need to replace water legislation that was nearly 80 years old
- the potential impacts on water supply of climate change, population and economic growth
- national water reforms.
There are 68 licensed water industry entities in South Australia, with SA Water being the only ‘major retailer’ with more than 50,000 connections. There are 31 ‘minor retailers’ (up to 500 connections) and 36 ‘intermediate retailers’ (500 – 50,000 connections). A list of licenced water industry entities can be found on the ESCOSA website (https://www.escosa.sa.gov.au/industry/water/licensing/licence-register).
Approximately 85 percent of minor and intermediate retailers are local governments, with most providing sewerage services through community wastewater management schemes.
Seven of the 68 licenced entities are private companies providing water or sewerage services, with approximately 2,100 customers between them.
Review of the Water Industry Act 2012
The review of the the Act took a broad focus, seeking input to the success or otherwise of the Act in achieving its objectives, rather than limiting discussions solely to improvements that could be made to the legislation.
Input was received from a wide range of stakeholders, including regulators, government, advocacy groups and licensed water industry entities. In general, stakeholders were positive about the Act, indicating that it had been a good step in the continued development of the water industry.
A number of issues and opportunities for improvement were raised, both in terms of the regulation of the water industry generally and specific improvements that could be made to the Act.
The recommendations documented in the review report are reflective of the issues raised by stakeholders as being the key areas where further work is required to fully achieve the objects of the Act.