The peak body for water utilities across Australia has welcomed an announced $150 million in funding to ensure safe drinking water for First Nations communities – but says training locals will be the key to long-term success.

The funding, announced last week as part of a larger package of funding aimed at closing the gap, will go towards improving access to safe drinking water in the more than 500 First Nations communities that lack regular water quality testing.

In a report released late last year the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) found many Indigenous communities across the Top End are receiving drinking water with levels of uranium, arsenic, fluoride and nitrate above recommended levels.

The report found a minimum of $2.2 billion would be needed to improve the situation.

WSAA executive director Adam Lovell said funding should also go towards training locals to maintain infrastructure.

“We’re really keen to work with people across the country to make sure there’s a people-centred side to this as well.

A developing skills and capability of community, community members or First Nations businesses to run these treatment facilities into the future.

You’ve got to have those types of programs….to make sure that money is really well spent and sustainable into the long-term. There’s nothing worse than seeing a new piece of technology or a new piece of infrastructure put in and just left with no training on how to operate it and how to maintain it.

There are plenty of opportunities, we believe, to put in culturally sensitive, community-specific skills and training programs to ensure that local communities or First Nations businesses can really grow.”