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 discrete Aboriginal communities across NSW.

The agreement will see up to $200 million committed to the Program over 25 years. The partnership was formed after evidence showed that the drinking water and sewerage services in many discrete Aboriginal communities across NSW were poor, placing the health of these communities at risk.

The aims of the Program are to improve the health and well-being of Aboriginal residents in the discrete 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 Program achieves its aims through brokering and funding. Agreements are negotiated between the LALCs and the Local Council or other service providers to deliver services for the operation, maintenance and monitoring of water supply and sewerage services.

The Aboriginal Communities Water and Sewerage Program provides:

  • water disinfection
  • improvements to water quality by replacing pipes and treatment plants
  • repairs to 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 Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) - Water with technical and financial assistance delivered in partnership with NSWALC and Local Councils. The program began on 1 July 2008 and has been on-going since then.

Outcomes to date from the program include (as of July 2020):

  • 63 discrete Aboriginal communities have been determined eligible for funding under the Program;
  • 23 of these communities have been found to have satisfactory water and sewerage services equivalent to neighbouring communities as they were part of a water utility reticulated system.
  • 36 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.
  • 1 Community has on-site sewerage contracts only. Pump outs commenced Nov 2019.
  • 2 communities are very small and because of their size it is unlikely that long term service agreements will be negotiated. However, they are being provided with maintenance of their water and sewerage services on an ‘as needs’ basis by their respective Local Council and their water and sewerage services have been found to be satisfactory with results indicating that the water meets the required Australian Drinking Water Guidelines for the parameters tested.  
  • At the remaining community there are currently no services proposed, except in emergencies until some ongoing housing related issues are resolved.
  • As a result of this Program, 63 Aboriginal communities with a population in excess of 6,000 people are now receiving water and sewerage services at a higher level than prior to the Program. In addition, since the commencement of the Program, capital works, backlog maintenance, emergency repairs and special purpose works have been approved at 42 Aboriginal communities.

If you would like more information regarding the Aboriginal Communities Water and Sewerage Program, please visit the DPIE’s Program Webpage or contact NSWALC’s Program Implementation Unit on 02 9689 4444.