July 31, 2013
Many people in Australia take the provision of clean water and sewerage services for granted, although some remote communities, especially Aboriginal communities, do not have that experience.
The provision of safe drinking water and the appropriate disposal of wastewater are among the most effective strategies for reducing the risk of disease.
The NSW Aboriginal Communities Water and Sewerage Program is a unique partnership between the NSW Government, and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and represents an investment of $200 million over 25 years. The Program ensures that remote Aboriginal communities receive a quality drinking water supply and sewerage services similar to those in the wider rural community, by addressing systemic problems with operation and maintenance. The Program is improving the wellbeing of Aboriginal people by providing capital upgrades, backlog works, emergency works and routine operation and maintenance for more than 60 Aboriginal communities across NSW.
The program is managed by the NSW Office of Water and provides support to communities and Local Aboriginal Land Councils in the treatment and distribution of drinking water and the collection, treatment and disposal of sewage. Significantly, the program involves three-way agreements between the NSW Government, Local Aboriginal Land Councils and water utilities, most of which are local councils, and traditionally supply these services to the rest of rural NSW. Local water utilities, or other service providers with expertise and experience in the management of water supply and sewerage systems, take responsibility for the day-to-day operation and maintenance activities. Consultation takes place between the Aboriginal community, the local water utility, the Office of Water, NSW Health and other stakeholders to examine the existing infrastructure and services and discuss what actions need to be taken to improve the service levels to the standard expected in the wider community. A risk-based Water and Sewerage Management Plan (consistent with the NHMRC Australian Drinking Water Guidelines) is implemented for each community.
NSW Health’s Environmental Health Branch is planning a health outcomes evaluation of the program.
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