Macquarie University
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The role of standardised water accounting in enhancing the accountability of Australian water management

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posted on 2022-03-28, 19:02 authored by Edward Paul Tello Melendez
This thesis explores the role of what I call Standardised Water Accounting (SWA) in enhancing the accountability of Australian water managers. SWA is intended to improve water information by applying financial accounting methodology and principles. SWA can be considered as a 'new accounting' which Bebbington and Gray (2001) describe as one of the _camps' into which research on sustainability accounting falls. To evaluate SWA I extend Gray et al.'s (1996) accountability model by identifying three critical components in the context of national water accounting standards: Clarity of Relationship, Transparency and Power of Accountees. The thesis comprises three papers. Paper 1 explores the development of SWA in Australia from the perspective of practitioners using the accountability framework. Overall, it was found that SWA might enhance the accountability of water managers, but it is unlikely to be fully realised in the second iteration of the standard (known as ED AWAS 1) due to the limitations identified during the data-collection phase. Paper 2 explores the perceptions of potential users of General Purpose Water Accounting Reports (GPWAR). The study suggests that accountability of water managers is unlikely to be fully realised in this iteration of SWA. Users agree that the benefits of applying SWA to account for and report on water will outweigh the costs; however, they are unsure about whether these reports will discharge the accountability of water managers. Finally, Paper 3 studies Australian groundwater accounting and reporting under SWA and explores the extent to which groundwater accounting reports under SWA will discharge the accountability of groundwater managers. The application of ED AWAS 1 to prepare groundwater reports poses challenges and concerns to potential report preparers. It is concluded that accountability for groundwater management is unlikely to be fully realised under the second iteration of the standard. Overall, it is concluded that is unlikely to fully realise accountability under SWA in its present form as there are several limitations discussed throughout the papers. Chalmers et al. (2012) argue that SWA (which they term as the GPWAR process) has the potential to serve the public interest as the credibility and quality of information to external and internal parties can be increased. However, it is difficult to argue that an accounting standard is in the public interest when the public have not been heavily involved in the development of the standard. An alternate explanation is that SWA is connected to auto-communication; that the end-user of SWA reports is actually the preparer of these reports.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- The extent to which Australian standardised water accounting contributes to accountability - practitioner perspectives -- Perceptions of potential users of standardised water accounting reports: an accountability approach -- Accountability and sustainable management of water resources: the case of groundwater in Australia -- Conclusion -- Appendices.


"A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy" Includes bibliographical references Author's consent form has author name Edward Paul Tello Melendez. Thesis by publication. "Submitted January 2013"

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Business and Economics, Department of Accounting and Corporate Governance

Department, Centre or School

Department of Accounting and Corporate Governance

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Lorne Cummings

Additional Supervisor 1

James Hazelton


Copyright Edward Paul Tello Melendez 2013. Copyright disclaimer:






1 online resource (xi, 261 pages) colour illustrations

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