The impacts of climate change are more pronounced in Perth than just about any other city in the world. Urban development, economic constraints and increasing demand for water amplify these impacts. In recognition of the important role local government can play in helping to sustainably manage the use of our most precious resource, the Western Australian government along with the state-owned Water Corporation have combined to establish the Waterwise Council Program, which helps local governments adopt waterwise practices.

To address the challenge of climate change, the Western Australian Government has outlined its vision for Perth to become a leading waterwise city by 2030 through the Waterwise Perth Action Plan. The plan sets out commitments from key agencies, including Water Corporation, to work together towards this vision.

A waterwise city is sustainable over the long term, economically productive, highly liveable and resilient to extreme weather events. It is a city where water is considered upfront in land planning to develop communities that use available water efficiently and are enhanced by water in the natural and built environments.

Local governments are key partners in delivering waterwise communities. They understand their community’s needs and aspirations, as well as the conditions of their local area.

Most importantly, local governments have a key role in engaging residents in decision making and encouraging community acton to create liveable, sustainable places to live.

In recognition of the important role local governments play in driving waterwise outcomes, the Waterwise Council Program was established in 2009.

The program is a joint initiative between Water Corporation and the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, and it helps local governments adopt waterwise practices in their operations and communities.

The program is designed to build and foster collaborative working relationships with local governments, assist them to sustainably manage water use, support water sensitive urban design, empower leaders in sustainable water management and improve water literacy in the community.

Today, the program supports more than 62 local governments across Western Australia by helping each monitor their water use and better manage water practices. As of 2021, 15 Waterwise Councils have participated in the program for ten years or more – a testament to its success.

How to be a waterwise council

The program is voluntary and provides education, training, materials and funding opportunities to improve water efficiency and help build waterwise communities.

Local governments who successfully meet the criteria are endorsed as ‘waterwise’. To become endorsed, participants must agree to and meet the following criteria:

1. Sign a Memorandum of Understanding to demonstrate local government commitment

2. Create a five-year Waterwise Council Action Plan to determine opportunities and goals

3. Ensure allocated team members complete free online waterwise training

4. Adhere to groundwater and scheme regulations

5. Retain endorsement annually by submitting a program report and provide updates on water use and actions Waterwise Councils are recognised at an annual waterwise recognition event which celebrates participants in a range of waterwise programs each year.

Plant giveaway at the City of Stirling (Gold Waterwise Council) in 2021, co-funded by the Waterwise Greening Scheme.

Benefits of being a waterwise council

Becoming a Waterwise Council is not just a title. The Program provides a range of benefits, including:

  • Opportunities to participate in liveability projects and trials
  • Free online waterwise training for staff
  • Waterwise materials to promote water conservation to the community
  • Access to services such as data logging
  • Invitation to industry events and networking including the Waterwise Forum
  • Opportunities for promotion and participation in new initiatives such as the Community Choice Awards
  • Funding opportunities to implement waterwise practices such as the Waterwise Greening Scheme Recent funding opportunities for Waterwise Councils include:
  • Waterwise Greening Scheme – provides co-funding of up to $10,000 for waterwise greening initiatives such as waterwise verge transformation programs, plant sales, trees, community workshops, demonstration gardens and garden competitions. The scheme has provided over $200,000 in funding since 2017.
  • Waterwise irrigation training – funded by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation for Gold Waterwise Councils, training is targeted at irrigation staff, allowing them to undertake a Certificate III in waterwise irrigation practices through Irrigation Australia Ltd (WA). This is a new initiative as of 2021.
  • Water Sensitive Cities Index Benchmarking Workshops – designed to help local governments benchmark their progress towards becoming a water sensitive city and identify future actions. So far, 20 WA local governments have been benchmarked.
  • Collaborative funding for a range of initiatives under Water Corporation’s Drainage for Liveability Program. Funding contributions are also available for innovative projects such as waterwise exemplar developments, waterwise demonstration gardens and more.

Program expansion

Initially, the Waterwise Council Program focused on water use efficiency. However, in 2017 it was expanded to embed the seven goals of the Water Sensitive Cities Index (Figure 1) in a new recognition scheme.

This also allowed existing Waterwise Councils to apply for further recognition as either a ‘Gold’ or ‘Platinum’ Waterwise Council. To achieve Gold status in 2021, Waterwise Councils are required to complete three compulsory actions and report on an additional ten actions annually across the seven index goal areas.

Gold Waterwise Councils are required to at minimum:

  • Have their aquatic facilities endorsed under Water Corporation’s Waterwise Aquatic Centre Program
  • Have an approved waterwise verge policy or similar in line with Water Corporation’s Waterwise Verge Best Practice Guideline
  • Have an established cross-departmental water management team

To be eligible for Platinum status, actions over and above the Gold requirements across any of the index goal areas must be demonstrated.

Figure 1. Seven goal areas that characterise a Water Sensitive City.

Integrating with other waterwise programs and services

Local governments influence major industries within their boundaries and the community they interact with. As the Waterwise Council Program expanded, related programs partnering with industry have been integrated into the criteria for Gold and Platinum status.

These include programs targeting local aquatic centres, office buildings, housing developments, schools and golf courses, which now all fall within the Waterwise Council Action Plan.

This cross collaboration of programs has helped strengthen relationships between industry and local government. In 2021, 28 out of 29 metro aquatic centres have been endorsed as waterwise, 24 developments are endorsed, and over 2500 visits to waterwise schools have occurred.

Local government staff are also a valuable source of information, feedback, and expertise to help improve the delivery of waterwise information – including Water Corporation’s waterwise plant directory, tree list for working near assets, and online training.

The Waterwise Council Program is highly transferable to other jurisdictions to help drive water efficiency outcomes and create waterwise communities.

It is a shining example of a partnership between state and local agencies that is leading the way towards better waterwise outcomes for all.

More information about the Waterwise Council Program can be found at


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