Memorandum of understanding (MOU)


A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is a formal document which details the responsibilities and mutual expectations of two or more parties in relation to achieving a common goal. This type of non-binding agreement can secure and outline commitment from central government or other parties (organisations or individuals) involved in the development and/or implementation of a National Water Safety Plan. It can be used to hold parties accountable to commitments assigned to them, ensuring they achieve what was agreed upon during planning stages and adhere to outlined regulations. Making the commitments of a MoU public can inform the broader population on what actions are being taken and who is responsible for various aspects of water safety plan development and implementation. The non-binding nature of a MoU means that it is generally a simpler and more flexible document than a contract, and is usually easier to understand. It is important that the MoU is carefully reviewed, understood and agreed upon by all parties involved. It is necessary for contributing parties to sign and date the MoU document. 

A MoU is often created as a first step on the path towards a formal and legally binding contract. The content of an initial MoU can be used to inform contract development. Evaluating what was achieved against what was outlined in a MoU is an effective way to evaluate the success of a water safety plan.  


  • A MoU formalises and encourages actions to be taken by parties involved in the development and implementation of a National Water Safety Plan.  
  • Parties are expected to adhere to certain regulations. 
  • A MoU can be used to increase accountability. 
  • It is an effective way to acquire government support and commitment. 
  • It is simpler and more flexible than a legally-binding contract. 
  • It is faster to create than a legally-binding contract. 
  • It does not require formal training to create. 


  • A MoU is not legally binding. Commitments can be broken without formal consequences. 
  • It will require some consultation and research to ensure the commitments included in the MoU are feasible and relevant. 
  • Although a less complex document, a MoU may still need to be lengthy and detailed depending on the complexity of water safety plan development and implementation, and the degree of stakeholder involvement required. 
  • It may be difficult to ensure than all parties agree to the terms of the MoU. 


A MoU can be used for formalising what each party believes they can achieve in a particular area of importance. In terms of timing, a MoU is often an effective first step in gaining the commitment of central government or larger organisations during the development stages of a National Water Safety Plan. A MoU can also be an initial step in creating agreements with central government as a non-binding MoU is more appealing to commit to than a contract. 

MoUs may be created in response to an event to ensure action is taken.