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New water agreement to tap into Indigenous knowledge

Liv Casben -

More attention will be given to climate change and Indigenous communities under a proposed rewrite of Australia's national water agreement.

The National Water Initiative was first signed in 2004 and sets standards among federal and state jurisdictions for water security in cities, towns and remote communities.

The agreement has objectives around water availability and quality, as well as infrastructure.

In what's been the first review in 20 years, views are being sought on a future national water agreement, with a discussion paper available for public consultation.

Federal Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek wants the new agreement to give more consideration to what impact climate change will have on water resources.

"Right across Australia, we're going to have less predictable rainfall, it's important to factor that into the water resources that we're building and maintaining for the future," she told ABC Radio on Thursday.

The proposal aims to improve government access to climate science so it can better respond to extreme weather events including drought.

Ms Plibersek said some parts of Australia are being failed when it comes to drinking water.

"We've got a lot of remote communities across Australia that don't even have adequate drinking water today," she said.

The minister hopes the new agreement will also give a bigger voice to Indigenous communities.

​"We are also entrenching an ongoing commitment to First Nations voices in water management, ensuring the needs and aspirations of First Nations communities are integral to water planning in our country," she said.

But the opposition has poured cold water on the rewrite, and questioned the government's consultation process.

"There is reform fatigue and a growing mistrust of Government water agencies," opposition water spokeswoman Perin Davey said.

"The proposed new objectives including Indigenous water interests and climate change cannot come at the expense of food production and community sustainability and resilience," Senator Davey said in a statement to AAP.

Just how a new agreement will be implemented nationally, and in each state and territory, is expected to be delivered by the end of 2024.

Liv Casben - AAP

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