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Lack of accountability impacting safe drinking water for regional towns

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A lack of government direction and accountability has left some regional and remote South Australian towns without a reliable supply of safe drinking water, a new report has found, prompting calls for a stocktake of the state’s water supplies.

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The South Australian Council of Social Service’s “Falling through the gaps” report, released this morning, shows that in many parts of regional and remote South Australia, the provision of drinking water is not nearly as secure, reliable or affordable as it is in metropolitan Adelaide.

The report, prepared for SACOSS by water policy consultants Aither, found that there is a “lack of direction and accountability” among government agencies when it comes to regulating water supply.

It found that because responsibility for water management is distributed across a number of agencies and various pieces of legislation, there is “confusion in leadership”.

“Access to drinking water is inconsistent across South Australia,” the report states.

“This disproportionally affects vulnerable members of the community.”

According to the report, at an aggregate level, Australia was recently found to have met drinking water targets set out by the United Nations.

But the SACOSS report claims the finding “hides the reality that many smaller regional and remote communities across Australia do not have reliable access to safe water services”.

The report has prompted SACOSS to renew calls for a state-wide stocktake of the state’s current water supply arrangements to determine how many towns are being left without ready-access to safe drinking water.

“No-one in or out of government knows or understands the magnitude of the problem,” SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley said.

“The situation currently being faced in some communities is simply not OK. We can do better than this and we must.”

SACOSS has also called on the State Government to develop a policy that outlines a basic level of safe and reliable water services for all South Australian towns and communities.

It comes after InDaily revealed that residents in Oodnadatta in the state’s far-north were being charged standard prices for water which, since the 1990s, has been identified as a potential source of the parasite naegleria fowleri.

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