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Markets, water shares and drought: Lessons from Australia

Cover images from Markets, watershare and drought report

What can the water industry in England and Wales learn from Australia’s water reform story?

How do public water suppliers operate within a shares-based system? What happens in a drought? What can we learn from Australia’s water reform story? This report explores the answers to these questions, and many more.


In 2011, the Government made a commitment in the Water White Paper to reform the current system of abstraction management. Defra has set out proposals for two alternative policy options: Current System Plus, which contains reforms designed to improve upon the current system; and, Water Shares, which would entail redefining water rights as a share of the water available for abstraction, as opposed to a maximum volumetric quantity.

In the development of these options Defra officials have drawn on the Australian abstraction regime, which is often described as ‘world leading’. Australia’s water markets are amongst the most mature in the world, and existing water rights are defined as a share of the water available. There is, however, very little research which describes how these reforms have affected public water suppliers, or how public water suppliers operate within a shares-based system.

Alice Piure, Strategy & Policy Analyst at Anglian Water, was awarded a Travelling Fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to research how the reforms in Australia have affected public water suppliers. As part of the project, she spent four weeks in Australia working with public water suppliers and others to understand what lessons we can learn from Australia’s water reform story.



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