A field trial in the Goulburn Broken catchment has helped to establish water stewardship as a viable tool for meeting customer expectations, promoting best practice and engaging major water users in natural resource management.
Water Stewardship Australia undertook the trial of its world-leading water stewardship standard in cooperation with the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (CMA), Dairy Australia and Tatura Milk Industries.
Learning from the trial has already been incorporated in a new international water stewardship standard that was launched earlier this month at a meeting of the United Nations CEO Water Mandate in Mumbai India.
Water Stewardship is based on compliance with a standard for responsible water management around four principles; water quality, water quantity, water governance and important water related sites and values.
The idea of creating a tool for validating good water management emerged out of the 2006 drought in Australia when major water users wanted to prove they were managing water responsibly and better manage water related risks.
Water Stewardship Australia has since contributed to the establishment of the global Alliance for Water Stewardship that has developed a global standard for verifying responsible water use and engaged many leading water organisations.
The launch of the international water stewardship standard means that a concept developed in Australia has moved to the global stage with programs underway in Europe, Africa, Asia, North and South America.
Secretary of Water Stewardship Australia, Michael Spencer, said the field trial undertaken in the Goulburn Broken with the CMA, Dairy Australia and Tatura Milk had played an important role in validating the concept.
“We were able to show in the Goulburn Broken that water stewardship could be a tool for meeting the emerging requirement of global multi-national and national customers that their suppliers use natural resources, including water, responsibly.
“The trial showed that water stewardship could work with existing systems and tools to promote best management practice in a way that avoided duplication and unnecessary additional compliance costs for well-managed suppliers.
“This will be an important if we are to encourage smaller primary producers to participate in these programs in a way that rewards best practice through recognition and securing market access.”
This field trial also showed that water stewardship can be an important tool for engaging major water users in natural resource management issues within a catchment leading to improved governance and catchment management.
Implementation of a water stewardship approach by a major water user is based on making a commitment to the principles of water stewardship; gathering data, preparing a plan, implementing, measuring performance and reporting progress.
An important component of water stewardship is the need to engage all relevant stakeholders, transparency and working toward catchment level outcomes as well as site-level outcomes.
The trial was supported by the MDBA who were interested in whether a program such as water stewardship could reward the uptake of best management practices. The Goulburn Broken CMA was interested in whether it could contribute to achieving catchment strategy goals. Dairy Australia and Tatura Milk were interested in how the trial could contribute to enhancement of industry sustainability goals.
Copies of the field trial executive summary and full report are available from the Water Stewardship Australia web site (www.waterstewardship.org.au) and copies of the international standard are available form the Alliance for Water Stewardship web site (www.allianceforwaterstewardship.org).
Issued: 22 March 2013
For further information:
Water Stewardship Australia
Telephone: 0439 381144
 The Australian standard used in the Goulburn Broken trial had five principles. It has a separate principle for infrastructure. The new international standard has four principles.