Pat McCafferty, WSAA Chair and Yarra Valley Water Managing Director, explains why the Sustainable Development Goals are so important to the Australian urban water industry.

Over the past two years it has been truly great to see the significant work by the urban water industry around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The incredible collective input and contributions are a credit to the industry.  As we move into 2019, we would like to reflect on the excellent work that has been done, and to plan for the year ahead. Here is the story so far....

An industry first

In August 2017 WSAA released Global Goals for Local Communities: Urban water advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals - a first for an industry body. Importantly the Paper included a commitment from the water industry to the SDGs as well as 13 case studies from water utilities around Australia on their work to advance the Goals. WSAA continue to have more members signing up to our commitment bringing the total of WSAA members to 24.

In August 2018 WSAA launched a progress report - Sustainable Development Goals Progress Report: Global goals for local communities. Combined, the reports have over 20 case studies which demonstrate the work by the industry to support and promote the SDGs in partnership with other utilities, customers and stakeholders. In addition, WSAA launched a short video - Can you believe it? - aimed at explaining the role water businesses can play in contributing to the SDGs.

Following the release of both reports, the efforts of the water industry have been acknowledged both here and overseas.  DANVA, the WSAA equivalent in Denmark, translated and used the WSAA Global Goals for Local Communities document to generate their own water sector program. UK utilities, including Anglian Water and Severn Trent, have specifically cited the leadership of the Australian water sector is also committing to the SDGs (in total or in part).

National recognition

Locally, in June 2018 the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) released Australia’s Voluntary National Report on progress with the Sustainable Development Goals. The Review showcases the work being done by governments, businesses, communities, individuals and academia. The DFAT Review noted the “Australian water industry has raised awareness of SDG6 and all the SDGs in its outreach to customers, businesses and among political leaders”. It also highlighted work being done by our members.

At the same time, the Australian SDGs website was launched which includes projects from organisations across Australia - including case studies from the WSAA Global Goals Paper.

Submission to Senate Inquiry

The Federal Senate is undertaking an inquiry into the Sustainable Development Goals and has already highlighted the leadership of the Australian water sector in galvanising its efforts to achieve the goals within Australia and to assist our close neighbours. WSAA provided a submission to the inquiry on behalf of the industry.

WSAA has representation on a multi-stakeholder SDG6 Working Group reporting to The National Sustainable Development Council. The Council is responsible for the Transforming Australia: SDG Progress Report.

Indicators for the urban water industry

The National (urban) Performance Report is currently under review for the National Water Initiative and provides an opportunity to include some key indicators that relate to the SDGs to help track performance.  A working group has been formed to assist.

What's next?

A how-to guide for the industry is also being considered.


19 Mar 2019

Sandi Kolbe

Sandi Kolbe

Communications Manager