The benefits of meeting SDG 6.1 ‘water for all’ in remote and rural Australia far exceed the costs.

Crawford School of Public Policy

Event details

RE&D Research Seminar

Date & time

Thursday 09 March 2023




Dr Ana Manero, is a research fellow at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, working on water economics and governance. Ana’s current research is focused on improving the understanding and valuation of water resources, for resilient decision-making and greater water justice. Through 10 years of work as an academic and a consultant, Ana has developed a strong passion for results-driven research, drawing from multiple fields, including economics, engineering, environmental and social sciences.


Kat Taylor

Provision of safe drinking water remains a challenge in regional and remote Australia, particularly in small towns and communities. In order to make decisions about resource allocation for drinking water services, policy-makers require information about the benefits and costs associated with such programs. A key issue is that conventional benefit-cost-analyses for public services tend to focus exclusively on the targeted population. The aim of this study is to estimate the societal benefit to Australian residents for a program to improve water quality for people currently exposed to sub-standard services. To this end, we apply the stated preference valuation approach though an online survey across a sample of over 3,500 Australian residents. We elicit respondents’ willingness-to-pay, through a household tax increase, for a program such that water quality meets all Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, for up to 260,000 people currently affected in 395 small towns and communities (<10,000 inhabitants). The estimated average willingness-to-pay for the program lies between A$781 and A$847 per household per year, over 10 years. Aggregation across the Australian population, using a conservative approach, for the entire duration of the program, indicates a social benefit within the range of A$24 and A$33 billion. The costs (capital and O&M) of similar proposed programs across Australia, and also throughout NSW and WA, are in the order of $3.3 million per community. On this basis, the estimated total cost for the full program to improve drinking water quality in 395 affected towns and communities is $1.3 billion. The estimated societal benefits of improving the supply of safe drinking water across Australia’s small towns and communities far outweigh the financial costs. We propose that decision-makers responsible for funding water infrastructure take into account the strong public support and the societal benefits of a program to deliver safe drinking water for all.

Updated:  23 April 2024/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team