Other legislation and instruments

Planning and Development Act 2007 (ACT)

The Planning and Development Act 2007 (ACT) (‘Planning Act’) provides for the preparation of the Territory Plan (TP). The TP includes a Water Use and Catchment General Code (s 11.8 of the Plan) (see Chapter 2 in this Handbook for more information on ACT planning).

The code recognises the competing and often conflicting demands made on the territory’s water resources. It protects the water and catchments of the ACT by specifying permitted water uses and environmental values for each catchment area. It identifies the purposes for which water may be used in different parts of the ACT and identifies the environmental values and the water quality and stream flow criteria to protect these uses and values.

There are three types of water use catchment categories which have been classified according to the predominant water use or environmental value within that catchment. These are:
  • conservation
  • water supply
  • drainage and open space.
Secondary uses are also permitted for individual waterways, as long as they can be managed so that they are consistent with the primary environmental value.

The mechanisms for ensuring that the principles relating to each of these catchments are implemented will generally be one of the following:
  • the identification of appropriate provisions in the relevant land use policies in the TP
  • the issue of licences to discharge to streams or to divert or abstract water for use or to undertake activities on or in waters or
  • the preparation of management plans by the relevant authority responsible for land management and the preparation of water-sharing plans by the relevant authority responsible for administration of the territory’s water resources.

Environment Protection Act 1997 (ACT)

The Environment Protection Act 1997 (ACT) (‘Environment Protection Act’) is the ACT’s main legislation for managing pollution, which includes water pollution. It requires that certain activities be licensed and subject to environmental standards. The Environment Protection Act also establishes the EPA (as discussed in greater detail above).

The Environment Protection Act defines ‘pollutant’ to mean certain listed things (which include a gas, liquid or solid, and an organism) that, when discharged, emitted, deposited or disturbed, may cause environmental harm (see the Dictionary to the Environment Protection Act). Water quality standards and the environmental values of a waterway are set out in the Environment Protection Regulation 2005, made under the Environment Protection Act.

In addition, the EPA makes Environmental Protection Policies (EPPs) that help to explain and apply the Environment Protection Act. Currently only one EPP relates specifically to water resources: the Water Quality Environment Protection Policy adopted in April 2008 (see Chapter 10 in this Handbook for more detail on environmental harm).

Utilities Act 2000 (ACT) and Utilities (Technical Regulation) Act 2014 (ACT)

The Utilities Act 2000 (ACT) (‘Utilities Act’) deals with the services and networks established to deliver water, electricity and gas throughout the ACT. The Utilities (Technical Regulation) Act 2014 (ACT) establishes a framework for technical regulation of utility networks. It is concerned, among other things, with maintaining the integrity of these networks and it establishes the offence of contaminating water in a water network (s 34). It also establishes the offence of introducing a prohibited substance or allowing a prohibited substance to be introduced into a water network or sewerage network (s 35). For both offences, the maximum penalty is 100 penalty units (currently $15,000 for an individual and $75,000 for a corporation), imprisonment for one year or both (s 35).

The Utilities (Technical Regulation) Act 2014 also imposes dam safety requirements (Part 8).

The Utilities (Water Conservation) Regulation 2006, made under the Utilities Act, provides for ministerial approval of water conservation measures and temporary water restrictions developed by a utility as well as the imposition of penalties for contravention of such conservation measures and temporary water restrictions.

Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment Act 1993 (ACT)

The Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment Act 1993 (ACT) requires the Commissioner to prepare a State of the Environment Report for the ACT (s 19) on or before a date to be determined by the minister. The latest report was the 2011 ACT State of the Environment Report covering the period 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2011. It included a chapter on ‘Land and water’. The report is available on the commissioner’s website (see Contacts list at the back of this book). The next report will be the 2015 ACT State of the Environment Report and will cover the period 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2015. It will be delivered to the minister on 21 December 2015 (see Chapter 12 in this Handbook for more information on the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment).

Catchment management

In 2000 the Environment and Recreation network within TAMS, in consultation with the community, developed an Integrated Catchment Management Framework for the ACT, which recognises that ‘integrated management of our resources is the most effective way of dealing with environmental issues’.

In 2015 the ACT and region catchment management coordination group was established under the Water Resources Act 2007 (s 67A). The group has been created to advise the minister and assist in the coordination of catchment management in the ACT including streams that flow into and out of the ACT. The coordination group is comprised of members as appointed by the minister or prescribed by regulation and includes: the director-general of the Environment and Planning Directorate as well as the Health directorate, a representative of the National Capital Authority, a representative of the New South Wales government agency with responsibility for water catchment management in the Australian capital water catchment region and a representative of the community’s interest in water catchment management (s 67E). The minister is required to consider any relevant advice given by the coordination group (s 67C). The coordination group is required to produce an annual report on the activities of the group (s 67D(1)) to be tabled by the minister in the Legislative Assembly along with a statement by the minister in response to the report (s 67D(3)).

The ACT has three community based volunteer catchment groups (Southern ACT, Ginninderra and Molonglo Catchment Groups) that tackle issues such as water quality, environmental restoration, weeds and pests in ACT catchments.

These volunteer groups developed the Waterwatch ACT initiative that aims to encourage and support the community to take responsibility for monitoring and improving the water quality of local creeks, wetlands, lake, rivers and storm water drains. It involves local community groups such as Landcare, Park Care and catchment groups as well as residents, schools, utilities and landowners. Waterwatch ACT launched the Upper Murrumbidgee Waterwatch database, which currently contains over 9,000 volunteer collected water quality records spanning 15 years (see Contacts list at the back of this book).

The ACT Government has produced the ACT Water Strategy 2014-44: Striking the Balance (discussed below) under which new arrangements for catchment management in the ACT will be developed. The new arrangements aim to bring together the ACT Government, NSW state and local governments and land management agencies, technical experts and the community to strengthen current catchment management initiatives and integrate Waterwatch ACT activities into a broader monitoring program.

ACT Water Strategy

The ACT Water Strategy 2014-44: Striking the Balance sets out how the ACT Government will manage the Territory’s water resources over the next 30 years to meet its urban and environmental needs and regional responsibilities. The strategy builds on the previous water strategy, Think Water, Act Water, and aims to deliver security of water supply, improved water quality and catchment health, and a ‘water smart’ community. A copy is available on the Environment and Planning Directorate website (see Contacts list at the back of this book).

The Strategy sets targets to maintain or improve water quality across all ACT subcatchments, to live within the sustainable diversion limit set for the ACT under the Water Act 2007 (Cth), and to increase community understanding and participation in managing and improving waterways in the ACT region.

The Strategy states that the condition of ACT catchments will continue to be reported through the State of the Environment Report, undertaken every 4 years by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment and the annual ACT Water Report by the ACT Government Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate.

Rain water tanks and greywater

A Rainwater Tank Guide has been prepared by the ACT Government, which provides guidance on the installation of rainwater tanks in residential properties. Tanks can be installed and the water used for garden irrigation, pools, drinking water, household water and flushing toilets. The Guide states that a development application (and perhaps building approval) is not required if:
  • the rainwater tank is forward of the front building line and buried
  • the tank has a maximum capacity of 20,000 litres
  • the tank does not affect a significant tree
  • the tank is not located in a heritage listed area
  • the tank is not more than 3 metres above natural ground level.
A development application (and perhaps building approval) is required if:
  • the rainwater tank is forward of the front building line and not buried
  • the tank is installed within 1.5 metres of a side boundary or rear boundary of the block
  • other Class 10 structures are within 1.5 metres of the boundary (Class 10 structures include pools, garden sheds, gazebos, existing rainwater tanks).
ACT Health has issued a second edition of a pamphlet titled Greywater use: guidelines for residential properties in Canberra which was published in October 2007 and is available on its website. The guidelines cover system design considerations, owner obligations, health and environmental implications and legislative requirements associated with the use of greywater (see Contacts list at the back of this book).

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