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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Water wary, states vary

Access to information about high water use by public and private sector organisations seems to vary from one state to another.

Brisbane City Council released information about the big users, and those that had successfully reduced usage in this report at the weekend in the Courier Mail. Things have improved there in the last 12 months as at that stage it took a year and a Freedom of Information battle to get the details. This time around it sounds much more straight forward.

In South Australia, The Advertiser had success in February with an FOI application and accessed information, including names of the big private water users in that state.

In Victoria, the Government released details of overall usage by the top 200. Big government users were named but names of private businesses were not disclosed. Victoria plans to publish a full list later this year.

However NSW takes the prize. As reported in the Daily Telegraph last year, the Government declined to release the names of any non residential water users.

As we commented at the time, this type of information should be routinely published rather than left to FOI applications that may or may not succeed.

The Federal Government's National Water Initiative talks about a consistent national framework for measuring water usage and reporting. It's clear there is plenty of scope for movement in this direction, given the current variation in disclosure practices.

Disclosing details about water usage/wastage/reduction is one way of achieving an outcome on every government's books at the moment - one step towards conserving an important national asset.

Some policy makers need to add the "transparency tool" to the policy tool box.

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