Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 21–32 | Cite as




In Australia, governments are committed to water infrastructure developments that are both environmentally sustainable and economically viable. Consumption-based pricing is seen as a water conservation strategy. This has significant implications for Aboriginal communities, many of which do not pay for water use and experience economic hardship. This paper outlines attitudes towards paying for water use in five Aboriginal communities in South Australia. Inability to pay for services was a common factor hindering willingness to pay for water. While different factors were raised in different communities, most communities believed that water is a ‘cultural right’ that should not be paid for. The research found that strategies such as communication and community involvement in the decision-making processes around water supply are necessary to facilitate cost recovery and to promote water conservation.


environmental and economic sustainability management user pays water resources water supply 



Australian Bureau of Statistics


Community Development Employment Projects


Council of Australian Governments


Department for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation


Department for International Development


Department for Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation


Strategy for Aboriginal Managed Lands in South Australia


Willingness to pay


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



Veolia Water (Australia), Department for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation (DAARE), and Flinders University are thanked for funding the research. Simon Wurst, Grant McLean (DAARE), and Jonathan Churchill (Adelaide University) for their contribution.


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS): 2002, 2001 Census of Population and Housing, Australian Bureau of Statistics, available online at (viewed 01.05.2003)Google Scholar
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW): 2003, The Health and Welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2001, ABS Cat. No. 4704.0, AIHW Cat. No. 1HW 11, Canberra, ABSGoogle Scholar
  3. Altaf M.A., 1994, The economics of household response to inadequate water supplies: evidence from Pakistan Third World Planning Review 16(1): 41–53Google Scholar
  4. Anonymous, 1993, The demand for water in rural areas: determinants and policy implications The World Bank Observer 8(1): 47–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. R. Bailie M. Runcie 2001 Household infrastructure in Aboriginal communities and the implications for health improvement Medical Journal of Australia 175 363–366PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bernardi G., 1997, The CDEP scheme: a case of welfare colonialism Australian Aboriginal Studies 2: 36–46Google Scholar
  7. Black, M.: 1998, Learning What Works: A 20 year Retrospective View on International Water and Sanitation Cooperation, UNDP-World Bank Water and Sanitation Program, Washington, D.C., available online at (viewed 16.02.2002)Google Scholar
  8. Bureau of Meteorology: 2004, Australian Climates, available online at (viewed 15.08.2004)Google Scholar
  9. Cameron J., 2000, Focussing on the focus group, in I. Hay, (ed.), Qualitative Research Methods in Human Geography, Melbourne, Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  10. Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG): 1994, 1994 Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) Water Reform Framework, available online at (viewed 07.09.2004)Google Scholar
  11. Commonwealth of Australia: 2002, Inquiry into Australia’s Management of Urban Water, 3 December 2002, available online at (viewed 31.08.2004)Google Scholar
  12. Department for International Development (DFID): 1997, ‘Workshop on willingness to pay for drinking water supply and sanitation, September 15–17 1997’, in S. Sharma (ed.), Department for International Development (DFID), WELL, Loughborough, Regional Water and Sanitation Group – South AsiaGoogle Scholar
  13. Department for International Development (DFID): 1998, Guidance Manual for Water Supply and Sanitation Programmes, WELL, Loughborough UniversityGoogle Scholar
  14. Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation (DWLBC): 2003, Interim Report on Monitoring of Water Wells in Aboriginal Lands Oct 2002 to April 2003, April 2003Google Scholar
  15. Dinar, A. and Subramanian, A. (eds): 1997, ‘Water pricing experiences’, The World Bank Technical Paper, No. 386, Washington, DC, The World Bank, pp. 57Google Scholar
  16. Fisher, J.: 2004, The Poverty Millennium Development Goal, Briefing Note 1, WELL, Loughborough University, WEDCGoogle Scholar
  17. Hazelton, D. and Kondlo, S.: 1998, Cost Recovery for Water Schemes to Developing Urban Communities: A Comparison of Different Approaches in the Umgeni Water Planning Area, Water Research Commission Report, WRC No. 521/1/98Google Scholar
  18. Kaliba A.R.M., Norman D.W., Chang Y.-M., 2003 Willingness to pay to improve domestic water supply in rural areas of Central Tanzania: implications for policy International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology 10(2):119–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kaliba A.R.M., Norman D.W., Chang Y.-M., 2003 Willingness to pay to improve domestic water supply in rural areas of Central Tanzania: implications for policy International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology 10(2):119–127Google Scholar
  20. Komives K., Prokopy L.S., 2000, Cost Recovery in the Focus Projects: Results, Attitudes, Lessons and Strategies, BPD Water and Sanitation Cluster, Wateraid, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Littlefair, K.: 1998, ‘Willingness to pay for water at the household level: individual financial responsibility for water consumption’, MEWEREW Occasional Paper, No. 26, Water Issues Study Group, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of LondonGoogle Scholar
  22. Mani, D., Onishi, T. and Kidokoro, T.: 1997, ‘Estimating willingness to pay for WATSAN’, Proceedings of the 23rd WEDC Conference, Durban, South Africa, Water and Sanitation for All: Partnerships and Innovations, pp. 242–245Google Scholar
  23. Morrissey M., 2003, Poverty and indigenous health Health Sociology Review 12(1): 17–29Google Scholar
  24. Parry-Jones S.A., 1999, Optimising the Selection of Demand Assessment Techniques for Water Supply and Sanitation Projects, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Loughborough University, WEDC, pp 12Google Scholar
  25. Pearce, M., Willis, E. and Jenkin, T.: 2004, ‘Incompatibility of location, lifestyle and water resources’, Proceedings of the 30th WEDC conference, 2529 October, Vientiane, Lao PDRGoogle Scholar
  26. Reed, D. and de Wit, M. (eds): 2003, Towards a Just South Africa: The Political Economy of National Resource Wealth, Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, Washington, DC, WWF Macroeconomics Program OfficeGoogle Scholar
  27. Rogerson C.M., 1996, Willingness to pay for water: the international debates Water SA 22(4): 373–380Google Scholar
  28. SA Water: 2002, Water Quality 2001, SA Water Annual Report 2002, Adelaide, South Australia, Government of South AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  29. Schur M.A., 1994, The need to pay for services in rural water sector The South African Journal of Economics 62(4): 419–431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Stephenson D., 1998, Water Supply Management, Dordrecht, The Netherlands KluwerGoogle Scholar
  31. Stephenson D., 1999 Demand management theory Water SA 25(2): 115–122Google Scholar
  32. Strategy for Aboriginal Managed Lands in South Australia (SAMLISA): 2000, Sustainable Resource Management: Strategy for Aboriginal Managed Lands in South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Aboriginal Lands TrustGoogle Scholar
  33. Wall, K.: 2000, A Resume of World Bank Water and Sanitation Experience of Value to South Africa, Water Research Commission, WRC Report No. KV 126/00Google Scholar
  34. Water Research Commission (WRC): 2004, Newsletter of the Water Research Commission Benchmarking Project: Customers perceptions of good water services, The Benchmark, Issue No. 3. pp. 8Google Scholar
  35. Willis E., Pearce M., Jenkin T., McCarthy C., 2004, Water Supply and Use in Aboriginal Communities in South Australia, Adelaide, Worldwide Online Printing, pp. 251Google Scholar
  36. World Bank 1993, The demand for water in rural areas: determinants and policy implications The World Bank Research Observer, 8(1): 47–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of GeographyFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations