The Water Industry Competition Act 2006 (WIC Act) and the regulations supporting its implementation (the Water Industry Competition (General) Regulation 2008 and the Water Industry Competition (Access to Infrastructure Services) Regulation 2007 commenced on 8 August 2008.
The Act and regulations have been developed to encourage competition in the water industry and foster innovative recycling projects and dynamic efficiency in the provision of water and wastewater services. The provisions under the WIC Act include:
The WIC Act encourages competition and investment by:
In addition, the regulations set out strict licensing rules to ensure that drinking water meets Australian standards, that recycled water is ‘fit for purpose’, and that all services are delivered in a safe, reliable manner with minimal environmental impacts. It also includes provisions for customer protection and the implementation of NSW Government social policies.
The licensing regime under the WIC Act enables the private sector to enter the industry while ensuring water quality, and protecting public health and the environment.
The construction, maintenance or operation of any water industry infrastructure, or supply of water (potable or non-potable) or sewerage services by means of any water industry infrastructure is only permitted under the authority of the WIC Act.
There are two categories of licences that can be granted.
IPART administers the licensing regime and their functions include considering licence applications, recommending the terms or conditions of a licence to the Minister, auditing and enforcing licences, and arbitrating third-party access agreements.
Since its introduction, a number of companies have been licensed under the WIC Act. Details regarding the licensing process, current licence holders, licence applications and exemptions to requiring a licence can be found on the IPART website.
The WIC Act provides for the following mechanisms to seek access to water infrastructure services.
For further information on third party access go to the IPART website.
Certain businesses that operate water industry infrastructure are exempt from requiring a licence under the WIC Act. The licence regime does not apply to a number of existing water supply and sewerage service activities including:
For further information on exemptions go to the IPART website.
In late 2008, it was identified that a specific exemption clause was not being consistently applied to some private water industry infrastructure. The Metropolitan Water Directorate undertook a review to find out whether the exemption clause was operating as intended.
For further information on the revised exemptions clauses, go to Review of exemption regime.
In July 2012, the Minister gazetted a Marketing Code of Conduct and a Transfer Code of Conduct for WIC licensees and public water utilities.
For further information go to Codes of conduct.
Along with measures to protect public health and the environment, there are provisions under the WIC Act that seek to protect customers in the event that a licensed retail supplier becomes unviable.
Although last resort arrangements have previously been used in the retail electricity market, they have never been used in the water market. The Metropolitan Water Directorate is currently reviewing last resort arrangements under the WIC Act.
For further information go to review of last resort arrangements.
In early 2012, amendments were made to the WIC Act to strengthen and streamline the regulation of licensees and provide greater protection for customers and the community. These amendments include the creation of three new licensing principles that need to be considered by the Minister when determining a licence application, new provisions to help licensees access their infrastructure on private land, greater clarity regarding the process for pricing determinations for certain licensees as well as a number of minor amendments to rectify anomalies in the WIC legislation.
For further information go to Amendments to improve the regulation of WIC licensees.
Prior to the introduction of the WIC Act, approval for private water and sewerage infrastructure was granted predominantly under the Local Government Act 1993. Some water and sewerage activities may require council approval if they are exempt from requiring a licence under the WIC Act.
Guidelines exist for drinking water and recycled water and should be consulted to ensure that relevant requirements are met. More information on these and other relevant NSW recycled water guidelines go to Recycling.
The NSW Government amended the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 to streamline the approval process between the WIC Act and Local Government Act 1993. A WIC licensee no longer requires approval under section 68 of the Local Government Act 1993 for that infrastructure.