The Territory Water Plan released today has many positive features that will improve management of this most precious resource, but much depends on how well and how quickly its measures are implemented. [1] 

Environmental Defenders Office Managing Lawyer (NT) Elanor Fenge said the NT Government appeared to have made important changes as a result of community feedback on the draft plan last year. 

“This is a significant step in the right direction, but details need to be ironed out,” Ms Fenge said. 

 “We stand ready to work with the NT Government to ensure this plan rolls out in a way that protects the interests of nature and communities, especially remote communities that already experience a high level of water insecurity.” 

The Environmental Defenders Office made a substantial submission during the consultation period for the draft plan, including nine key recommendations. [2] Ms Fenge said it appeared the government had responded constructively to input from EDO and other community groups, including Environment Centre Northern Territory and several Local Land Councils.  

“A new emphasis on modern, science-based water planning is a very positive development, as is a proposal to create an Aboriginal Water Advisory Council,” Ms Fenge said. 

‘First Nations communities have for far too long been sidelined and forgotten in debates and decisions that affect water quality and water allocations. 

“We also welcome the Government’s renewed commitment to the National Water Initiative, which will help ensure the Territory’s water management regime aligns closely with the rest of Australia and a commitment to applying the precautionary principle in decision making in relation to climate risk” 

“We sincerely hope these commitments result in the Territory adopting best-practice water management policies and practices backed by science.”  


  • Commitment to commission an independent review of water allocation planning to ensure it complies with the National Water Initiative. 
  • Commitment to create an Aboriginal Water Advisory Council. 
  • Commitment to renew the government’s adherence to the National Water Initiative (NWI). 


  • No commitment to adopting enforceable safe drinking water standards.  
  • No commitment to adopting the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines as an enforceable, Territory-wide standard. 
  • Fails to set out the requirements for establishing the Strategic Water Advisory Council in legislation. 


[1] Territory Water Plan, Office of Water Security, NT Government, June 2023.  

[2] EDO Submission to the Draft Territory Water Plan, Environmental Defenders Office, 25-11-22.  


James Tremain | 0419 272 254