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Water fact sheet

Adapted from Watermark. December 2007

  • Australia is the driest continent on Planet Earth
  • Our rainfall patterns are the most variable on Planet Earth.
  • Water consumption per capita in our cities and suburbs is now the highest amongst all nations.
  • We are the highest exporter of embodied water in our exports amongst all nations - nearly 4000 GL net. The greatest proportion (nearly 50%) comes from Victoria!
  • Population is a major driver of domestic water consumption and use. Net immigration is now the major element in this population growth. The Victorian government wants high immigration numbers maintained so as to keep driving a 3-4% "growth economy"!
  • From this point onwards, energy use (and therefore carbondioxide emissions) and increased demand for water will be inextricably linked.
  • Cities along the eastern seaboard are very poorly placed to come with the predicted decline in available fresh water.
  • In many parts of the agricultural regions of Australia, freshwater and marine environments and the biodiversity that depends upon them, are now in free fall. As climate change spreads across Victoria, a substantial decline in surface water runoff is predicted for 28 out of 29 of Victoria's major surface water management areas by 2030 (average l5-20%). Without correction, these aquatic environments will decline further.
  • The Victorian government has signalled several times that any situation of future water scarcity can be responded to by simply increasing water supply. Given the predicted changes in Australia's climate and the expected world­wide focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, this approach is not sustainable.
  • The alternate approach is that Australia must start on a pathway to become a water-efficient nation and then move to super-efficiency with water use.
  • Simple technologies exist that will allow us to move in this direction.

Governments must decide to act, give the appropriate signals and initiate appropriate programs.

Governments across Australia have squandered nearly three decades in their failure to develop and embrace metropolis-scale water re-cycling programs. Each time this is proposed, public consideration is high-jacked by limiting discussion to a consideration of the use and consumption of treated human waste.

Some major national programs need to be initiated to better place and equip communities to deal with a water future that will be very different from that experienced over the past 50-60 years. The financial costs will be significant­, possibly $40-50 billion over 20-30 years.