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Regulatory theory insights into the past, present and future of general purpose water accounting standard setting

Keryn Chalmers (Monash University, Caulfield East, Australia)
Jayne M. Godfrey (College of Business and Economics, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
Barbara Lynch (Deakin University, Warnambool, Australia)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 27 July 2012




Accounting and water industry experts are developing general‐purpose water accounting (GPWA) to report information about water and rights to water. The system has the potential to affect water policies, pricing and management, and investment and other decisions that are affected by GPWA report users' understanding of water risks faced by an entity. It may also affect financial returns to accounting and auditing firms and firms in water industries. In this paper the authors aim to examine the roles of the accounting profession, water industries and other stakeholders in governing GPWA. Recognising that the fate of GPWA depends partly upon regulatory power and economics, they seek to apply regulatory theories that explain financial accounting standards development to speculate about the national and international future of GPWA.


Official documents, internal Water Accounting Standards Board documents and unstructured interviews underpin the authors' analysis.


The authors speculate about the benefits that might accrue to various stakeholder groups from capturing the GPWA standard‐setting process. They also suggest that internationally, water industries may dominate early GPWA standards development in the public interest and that regulatory capture by accounting or water industry professionals will not necessarily conflict with public interest benefits.

Practical implications

Accounting for water can affect allocations of environmental, economic, social and other resources; also, accounting and water industry professional standing and revenues. In this paper the authors identify factors influencing GPWA standards and standard‐setting institutional arrangements, and thereby these resource allocations. The paper generates an awareness of GPWA's emergence and practical implications.


This is an early study to investigate water accounting standard‐setting regulatory influences and their impact.



Chalmers, K., Godfrey, J.M. and Lynch, B. (2012), "Regulatory theory insights into the past, present and future of general purpose water accounting standard setting", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 25 No. 6, pp. 1001-1024.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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