Transitioning from IWCM strategies to the new framework

Sunset on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, Hay, NSW, Australia

From 1 July 2022, the Regulatory and assurance framework for local water utilities PDF, 1613.11 KB applies to local water utilities in regional NSW.

In 2021, we committed to ensuring that those local water utilities progressing their Integrated Water Cycle Management (IWCM) Strategy would not be disadvantaged by the new strategic planning assurance framework. We continue to engage with all local water utilities that are currently undertaking an IWCM Strategy, including those funded under the Safe and Secure Water Program. We will work with utilities individually to develop a clear transition program through to 1 December. We will also publish draft guidance over the coming months, with final guidance in place by October.

We are in the process of updating the Safe and Secure Program guidelines to enable funding for strategic planning using approaches other than IWCM strategies.

The department recognises that many local water utilities have an Integrated Water Cycle Management (IWCM) strategy in place or are currently in the process of developing one under the previous strategic planning framework (the Best-Practice Management of Water Supply and Sewerage Guidelines).

In July 2022, we will be engaging with all local water utilities that currently have in place or are in the process of developing an IWCM strategy, including those funded under the Safe and Secure Water Program for this purpose.

We will work with utilities individually to develop a clear transition program through to 1 December 2022. This will involve the offer of meetings with members of the department’s Town Water Risk Reduction Program and Water Utilities teams, as well as Water Infrastructure NSW’s Safe and Secure Water Program administration where necessary, to tailor transition to local circumstances.

What is the impact of the Regulatory and assurance framework for local water utilities with a current IWCM strategy in place (including a recently finalised IWCM strategy)?

These local water utilities fall into two broad groups:

Group Current status Next steps

1. Local water utilities that have received concurrence from the department for an IWCM strategy in the past four years (ie. after 1 July 2018).

Considered to have departmental concurrence for the purpose of their existing IWCM strategy.

From 1 July 2022, these local water utilities are considered to have
effective, evidence based strategic planning in place under the new regulatory and assurance framework.

The first “annual check-in” will be scheduled for 1 July 2023.

2. Local water utilities that have received IWCM strategy concurrence from the department for the purpose of paying a dividend under section 409 of the Local Government Act 1993, in the past two years (ie. after 1 July 2020).

Considered to have departmental concurrence for this purpose.

From 1 July 2022, these local water utilities are considered to have  effective, evidence based strategic planning in place under the new regulatory and assurance framework.

The first “annual check-in” will be scheduled for 1 July 2023.

We will write to the utilities that fall into these two groups.

What is the impact of the Regulatory and assurance framework for local water utilities currently in the process of developing an IWCM strategy (including those that have received or are pursuing funding under the Safe and Secure Water Program to develop an IWCM strategy)?

While the department sets expectations for the outcomes that strategic planning needs to achieve to be effective and evidence-based, utilities can decide what approach to take to meet them. Generally, the department will not specify the approaches, processes, and tools that a utility should use for strategic planning. Local water utilities are responsible for developing and implementing their own strategic planning. There is no single best-practice way for this work to be delivered, although the department will give ‘how to’ guidance, templates, case studies and tools to facilitate a streamlined process. Our overall priority is to ensure strategic planning outcomes (outlined in Section 3.2 of the Regulatory and assurance framework for local water utilities PDF, 1613.11 KB) are achieved to a reasonable standard.

Local water utilities can choose to continue to use the IWCM Strategy approach to develop strategic planning that is effective, evidence-based strategic planning.

For local water utilities eligible for Safe and Secure Water Funding, there are two broad groups:

Group Current status Next steps

1. Local water utilities that have a Safe and Secure Water Program funding deed in place by 30 June 2022.

Agreed funding guaranteed but action required to decide whether to change approach to strategic planning.

The Town Water Risk Reduction Program will contact you about your options for your approach to strategic planning.

The local water utility may

  • Continue developing an IWCM strategy, or
  • Consider whether it would like to revise its approach to strategic planning.

The Town Water Risk Reduction Program will support local water utilities in understanding the options available and any impacts on existing Safe and Secure Water Program funding deeds, including scope, milestones and timelines.

2. Local water utilities that are in the process of scoping an IWCM/strategic planning project but do not have a Safe and Secure Water Program funding deed in place by 30 June 2022.

In scoping – no impact.

The current Safe and Secure Water Program.

The local water utility may:

  • Continue scoping under the previous IWCM checklist approach, or
  • Consider whether it would like to revise its approach to strategic planning.

The Town Water Risk Reduction Program will support local water utilities in understanding the options available..

What is the impact of the Regulatory and assurance framework for local water utilities that have not commenced scoping an IWCM strategy?

Before commencing the strategic planning process, your local water utility is strongly encouraged to consider section 3 of the Regulatory and assurance framework for local water utilities PDF, 1613.11 KB.

As the regulatory and assurance framework does not specify the tools, processes and approaches that a utility should use for strategic planning, broadly speaking, three options exist for you to consider:

  1. Continue to use the IWCM checklist as the basis for your strategic planning.
  2. Participate in an Integrated Planning and Reporting focused local water utility strategic planning pilot – read the Using the Integrated Planning and Reporting framework for local water utility strategic planning PDF, 573.34 KB guidance document for more information.
  3. Develop another approach to meet the outcomes-focussed approach to local water utility strategic planning.

Local water utilities are encouraged to contact the Town Water Risk Reduction Program to discuss all of the above options and your local contact in the department’s water utilities team.