Australian households are willing to pay more than is needed to deliver safe drinking water to every Australian, according to new research from The Australian National University (ANU).

The survey of 3,523 people found that Australians are prepared to pay between $324 and $847 per year for 10 years to ensure good drinking water for all.  

In total, this would add up to between $1.2 and $4.7 billion per year for 10 years to ensure good drinking water for every Australian. 

This is considerably more than the study’s estimated cost to deliver good drinking water for the whole population – between $58 and $186 million per year over 10 years.  

According to study co-author Professor Quentin Grafton, from ANU, hundreds of thousands of Australians in remote communities lack access to safe, clean drinking water – despite Australia being ranked among the world’s most developed and richest countries.  

“The Australian Government reports that some two per cent of the Australian population lack access to safely managed drinking water services,” Professor Grafton said. 

Professor Quentin Grafton says Australians in remote communities lack access to safe, clean drinking water. Photo: Image supplied

Study co-author Dr Ana Manero, also from ANU, added: “These figures may make it look like poor-quality drinking water is only a matter for some, but our results show that the vast majority of Australians care deeply about this issue and want it fixed. 

“The bottom line is hundreds of thousands of Australians, many in remote communities, lack access to good quality drinking water out of their taps.”  

The researchers believe Australia is lagging behind sustainable development goals to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for the whole population.  

The study found no real difference in the willingness to pay between urban and rural households, confirming that Australians living in metropolitan areas, largely unaffected by the issue, want changes made to improve water quality for Australians in remote communities. 

“Our study should give all Australian governments the confidence to finally deliver sustainable and ‘fit-for-purpose’ improvements in rural and remote communities to achieve good quality drinking water for all Australians,” Professor Grafton said. 

The research team includes experts from ANU, University of Alberta and The University of Queensland. 

The study is published in Nature Water

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