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Australia is the Driest Inhabited Continent on Earth - But What About Water Conservation 🎥

Australia is the driest inhabited continent on Earth and among the world’s highest consumers of water. As the country's supply of freshwater is increasingly vulnerable to droughts as a result of climate change, there is an emphasis on water conservation and various regions have imposed restrictions on the use of water. But is that enough?

Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is a massive sandstone monolith in the heart of the Northern Territory’s arid "Red Centre". The nearest large town is Alice Springs, 450 km away. Uluru is sacred to indigenous Australians and is thought to have started forming around 550 million years ago.

Of course the answer should be “NO” - agriculture alone uses 50-70% of the water consumed in our country per annum and irrigation takes a big cut of this with almost 90%. The vast majority of irrigated water use is controlled by regulations and licences, where the rapid climate change situation hasn’t been taken seriously into account enough.

Groundwater is extensively used right across the Australian continent. The Great Artesian Basin (GAB - one of the largest underground fresh-water reservoirs in the world), underlying about 1.7 million square kilometres of Australia, contains about 65,000 km3 of water, the water is up to 2 million years old, but sadly it appears far to easy to extract this resource faster than it is being replenished.

Freshwater is essential to human existence and to the functioning of the ecosystems that support us and nature. Australia can yield only a limited amount of freshwater. The average annual rainfall in Australia of around 470mm a year is well below the global average. Despite this, Australians are the greatest per capita consumers of water, using an average of 100,000 litres of freshwater per person each year. Water consumption levels vary throughout Australia. Average daily water use ranges from as little as 100 litres per person in some coastal areas to more than 800 litres per person in the dry inland areas. The current average daily water consumption is 340 litres per person, or 900 litres per household.

Freshwater stream in Australia

Available freshwater resources are expected to decline with changes to rainfall patterns accompanying global climate change. As our population grows, so does the pressure on water use. To ensure future supplies of fresh, clean water we need to use it more carefully.

Our climate worldwide is determined by patterns of temperature, wind, atmospheric pressure, humidity and rain over a long period of time.

As a large country, Australia has a variety of climates.

The climate of an area determines its seasons. Therefore this affects the type of plants that grow and which animals survive. The unique flora and fauna in Australia depends on intricate ecosystems, and even small changes to the climate can disrupt the delicate balance of nature.

For us humans, every aspect of our life is reliant on the natural environment including the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the clothes we wear and the products that are made and sold to create jobs and drive the economy.

Within Australia, the effects of global warming vary from region to region, but the impacts are already being felt across all areas of Australian life with droughts, heatwaves, floods, bushfires, and these will continue to worsen if we do not act now to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

A healthy and stable climate is our most precious natural resource.

But instead of seeing action from our government without delay, we continuously read headlines similar to the following from the “Guardian Australia” in September 2018:

“Australia on track to miss Paris climate targets as emissions hit record”

This is a sad fact and difficult to understand, especially when one knows about all the European and other responsible Government’s efforts! But our team at Enviroblog believes that despite all the government setbacks in our country, collectively we can change the world around us. This starts with spreading awareness, information and a respect for what scientists are increasingly telling us: we are exceeding the limits of Earth’s natural systems. The evidence is all around us.

Murray River Lagoon in South Australia - due to excessive irrigation and the effects of drought the once vibrant lagoon supporting wildlife has turned to dust

One of the many big problems for future generations will be the scarcity of water sources in Australia as the country is “water poor”. In an Australian city along the East Coast the water most likely comes from surface water such as streams, rivers and reservoirs filled by rainfall and runoff, where as in Perth/Western Australia about 40% of water comes from groundwater. In other parts of Australia surface water stored in reservoirs is the main source of water supply, only a much smaller share comes from groundwater - but all storage methods are, at the end of the day, vulnerable to fluctuations in rainfall. And as Climate Change takes hold, so will droughts become longer and more extreme. The damaging effects of water pollution created through mining, farming, fracking, runoff from industry and so on into our waterways and groundwater is not even taken into account here.

Although - unfortunately - the Australian Government is taking much to long addressing climate change, ensuring energy security in replacing coal with renewable energy for instance, business, the community, households and individuals can all help. Everyone’s efforts can make a difference.

The efficient use of water and the use of water saving products both inside and outside the home can assist in reducing household water consumption. On a positive note for example, the use of front loading washing machines, generally more water efficient than top loaders, has increased over the last three years.

Remember these simple water saving tips:

  • take shorter showers

  • turn off the tap when brushing your teeth

  • use a plug in the sink when preparing vegetables, washing fruit or washing dishes by hand

  • use mulch or compost in the garden to increase water absorption and the moisture content of your soil

🎥 (2:04) Securing Australia's Water Resources

This short video summarises the value of Geoscience Australia's work to manage, secure and sustain water resources for the nation.

Through this blog, our contributors strive to play a small part in helping to correct course. Our precious home needs our collective energy - now. Please get involved - in any way you can.



Australian Government - ‘Your Home’ Author Caitlin McGee, 2013 (viewed 05.12.2018)

Australian Government - Geoscience (viewed 05.12.2018)

Wikipedia (viewed 05.12.2018)

WWF Australia, 2018 (viewed 05.12.2018)


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