Water

Discussion

Water is in short supply in many parts of Australia.

In the Murray-Darling Basin, water drawn from the river system to irrigate pastures and crops is causing problems downstream to human settlements and natural ecosystems due to water depletion and increasing salinity.

High and medium intensity water users such as rice and cotton growing are having to justify their use to low intensity users such as fruit and vegetable growers, industry and households. A fair water allocation scheme, eg which sets aside enough for nature then auctions off permits to use the rest, has yet to be established.

Meanwhile, climate change is reducing the water available to some Australian cities, prompting governments to encourage water conservation, rainwater capture, and waste-water recycling.

Subtopics

Desalination - One solution to water shortages is to convert salty water to fresh, drinkable water. But this could add to electricity demand and hence greenhouse gas emissions.

Grey Water Reuse - Water drained from showers, baths, washing machines, and kitchen sinks - can be reused for garden irrigation, thereby reducing houshold demand for outside water supplies.

National Water Initiative - Sets aside 500 GL per year (average) for environmental flows in the Murray-Darling river system. Irrigators are happy, but environmentalists say at least 1500 GL is needed.

Rainwater Tanks - Collecting rainwater runoff from roofs for use in buildings and gardens can reduce demand on outside water supplies, which may be limited.

Stormwater- Diverting stormwater into settling ponds makes it available to local plants, allows replenishment of underground aquifers, and filters and cleans the water before it flows downstream.

Water Allocation - In Australia, large water-consumers such as irrigators and urban areas compete for limited water resources, with natural ecosystems often missing out. We need a system that allocates water in a way that maximises value, to both human and natural communities.

Water Conservation - Careful attention to the way we consume water will allow us to reduce demand, and so leave more water for nature, and extend scarce water resources.

Water Costing - As communities make decisions about the renewal of their water infrastructure, they should be able to compare the true costs of alternative systems, including environmental costs.

Water for Cities - Much of the water run-off from roofs and paved surfaces in urban areas, as well as water output from wastewater treatment plants, is not used, but could be, to supplement or replace current water supplies.

Water for Gardens - Gardens consume significant amounts of water. If we use water more effectively in the garden, we can use less, and so conserve limited water resources.

Water for Households - The amount of water required for households can be reduced, by using water more efficiently, and greater use of local water supplies such as water runoff from roofs.

Water for Rice - Rice growing in Australia diverts a large amount of water away from use by natural ecosystems, but without adding much economic value to that water.

Water for Rivers - Water is being diverted from Australian river systems for economic uses, especially irrigation. This is putting strain on ecosystems dependent on river water, including many wetlands.

Water Pricing - Water consumers are often undercharged for the water they use, which leads to wasteful water use. The price of water should more accurately reflect costs incurred by the system.

Water Recycling - By reusing treated wastewater, we can make urban areas less dependent on rivers and reservoirs for water.

Water Recycling at Rouse Hill - A new residential development at Rouse Hill, Sydney is being supplied with treated wastewater, which households can use for non-drinking purposes.

Water Use - How is water being used in Australia, and what value is being added to it? To conserve water in Australia, it might be worth cutting down some uses for water more than others, namely those uses which add less value.

Library

Victorian White Paper - The Victorian Government's white paper, Securing Our Water Future Together, sets out initiatives for water conservation, restoring river systems, and securing supply.

Links

Climate Change and Water in Australia. Climate Action Network Australia.

Planet Water

Water for a Healthy Country. CSIRO

Water Industry Alliance. South Australia

Water Reform. Prime Minister & Cabinet. Australia

Water Resources. Australia

2007.7.3