Since 1994, the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CfAT) has followed a risk management approach to water supplies in remote Indigenous communities.
This approach was adapted especially for those communities whose water supplies fall outside the remit of government agencies or utility companies.

CfAT’s work builds an evidence base for policy and practice and an enabling environment for shared responsibility between local water managers and service providers.

CfAT has a collaborative partnership approach to improving water supplies in remote areas by creating strong partnerships with Water Quality Research Australia and its members and has worked with the National Health and Medical Research Council and the National Water Commission on water projects.

To provide the operators of small supplies with best practice information and management tools necessary to keep a small water supply safe and working, and know what to do when something goes wrong.

CfAT works with community members to identify hazards and risks to their water supply systems and develop plans to manage those risks at the local level. This may require fencing off the bore to prevent damage by feral animals such as camels and developing routine maintenance activities to check for water supply system issues such as leaking or corroded pipes. Building knowledge and skills at the local level mitigates risks to water supplies, whether through responding to system failures – pipes, pumps and taps – or water quality issues – contamination from animals or bacteria.

Risk management approaches reduce the costs of keeping water supply systems functioning and safe, and reduce dependency on others to fix locally rectifiable problems.

CfAT has shaped substantial work to develop appropriate processes and linkages between water service providers to improve small water supply management. Most recently, CfAT created the Community Water Planner Field Guide; a kit designed specifically for water management planning in Australian Indigenous communities for the National Water Commission. The information in the package is generic and suitable for Indigenous communities of any size in any location in Australia, with a functioning water supply system.

The field guide was extensively trialled in remote Indigenous communities throughout its development during 2008 and 2009. In addition, CfAT’s experience working directly with residents in small community water management activities contributed significantly to the project.

Workshops to train facilitators in the use Community Water Planner Field Guide for developing management plans with communities are being run across the country and have been delivered in Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

The Field Guide provides information on best practice processes for managing the risks as well as planning tools. These are adapted for small water supplies and allow small water supply managers to follow the same core principles that are used in large municipal supplies.

At a recent workshop in the Kimberley, participants said they would use the Field Guide because:

• it is community oriented and provides step-by-step clear instructions.
• it enables me to do my work properly
• it helps people work and plan things together
• it creates awareness among community members about their water supply.
• it provides a structure and procedures that can be followed by myself and whomever replaces me.

The Field Guide is the culmination of years of experience and understanding of Indigenous communities, the challenges they face with water supply management and a clear pathway for best practice.

Copies of the field guide can be downloaded from Water Quality Research Australia

Hard copies can also be requested from CfAT or from state and territory Health Departments.