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People, the environment, agriculture and industry all depend on water supply.

Because of its scarcity in Australia, water of all qualities is valuable. But it must be managed to ensure it is safe and of the right quality for its intended purpose. For example, water for human consumption needs to be a higher quality than water for some agricultural purposes.

A critical component of using and managing water resources is understanding water quality. The primary responsibility for managing water quality lies with state and territory governments, which work closely with Australian water utilities and their supporting networks.

The water sector is involved in the supply, treatment and distribution of drinking water; the recovery and treatment of wastewater; and waterways and drainage management.

When antimicrobials are used to treat and prevent infectious diseases in humans and animals, some of these pharmaceutical residues and antibiotic-resistant microbes may end up in wastewater and surface waters.

In wastewater treatment plants, a range of other contaminants provide selection pressure for the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

As a result, these plants are now recognised as important AMR reservoirs and hotspots. Runoff from farming operations that use antimicrobials for crop and animal treatment can also add antimicrobials to waterways.

These compounds can then move about the environment, creating selective pressures for the development of environmental AMR and potentially affecting downstream uses of that water.

AMR is of utmost strategic importance to water utilities and health and environmental regulators, who must develop and comply with regulatory frameworks governing the provision of safe drinking water, safeguard the health of wastewater-receiving environments, manage waterways and provide fit-for-purpose and safe recycled water to customers.