Aboriginal Communities' Water and Sewerage Program

In 2008, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) entered into a partnership with the NSW State Government to provide joint recurrent funding for the operation, maintenance and monitoring of water and sewerage infrastructure in eligible former Aboriginal missions and reserves across NSW.  The agreement will see more than $200 million committed for 25 years.

The aims of the program are to improve the health and well-being of Aboriginal residents in those communities, provide safe and effective drinking water and sewerage services and ensure that services are being provided to equivalent standards existing in the wider community. The partnership was formed after evidence showed that the drinking water and sewerage services in many discrete Aboriginal communities were poor, placing the health of these communities at risk.

The Aboriginal Communities Water and Sewerage Program provides:

  • water disinfection by replacing pipes and treatment plants
  • improvements to water quality
  • repairs to centralised sewerage systems and sub-surface irrigation
  • regular inspections and maintenance of pump stations and water treatment plants
  • regular maintenance and cleaning of sewer pumps and sewer mains
  • regular collection and testing of water

Funds are administered through the Department of Primary Industries - Water (DPI Water), with technical and financial assistance delivered in partnership with NSWALC and local councils. As part of the program, DPI Water negotiates service agreements with local water utilities for routine maintenance, backlog repairs and emergency works.

The program began on 1 July 2008 and has been on-going since then. Outcomes to date from the program include (as of April 2016):

  • 61 discreet Aboriginal communities were determined eligible for funding under the program;
  • 21 of these communities were found to have satisfactory service equivalent to neighbouring communities;
  • 31 communities now have long term service agreements in place for local water utilities to provide full water and sewerage services equivalent to the broader community;
  • Long term agreements are being progressively negotiated for a further 8 communities; and
  • Services in 41 communities have been improved through backlog works, emergency works and infrastructure upgrades.

As a result of the program, 61 Aboriginal communities with a population of excess of 6 000 people are now receiving water and sewerage services at a higher level than prior to the program.

Prior to the program commencing, Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs) were providing water and sewerage services for 40 of the discreet Aboriginal communities. The process for negotiating service agreements under the program has allowed local water utilities to undertake detailed assessments of conditions of existing water and sewerage infrastructure assets in these communities. Water and sewerage management plans are also drafted for each community, which assist in leading to better management and fewer breakdowns.

If you would like more information regarding the Aboriginal Communities' Water and Sewerage Program, please contact NSWALC's Policy and Programs Unit on 02 9689 4444.