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ccording to Future Directions International in its 2014 report on Australian water security 1: “As Australia’s population continues to grow, the demand for urban water will create challenges for water managers. The majority of natural water resources in Australia have already reached allocation limits. In some instances, resources are over-allocated between user groups and economic mechanisms have been adopted to manage usage. Meeting competing water demand into the future will require innovation, the economic valuation of water and co-operation across sectors.” The Millennium Drought in 2002 raised awareness of water scarcity in Australia and had a significant effect on water management policy as it highlighted the vulnerability of Australia to fluctuations in rainfall patterns. This resulted in falls in household water consumption of 28% between 2004 and 2010; but as Australia’s population continues to grow, the growing demand for urban water will be a challenge. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) is currently reporting both a strong El Niño in the Pacific (expected to continue into the first quarter of 2016) and a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), with both indices being above +1°C. El Niño is usually associated with below-average rainfall in eastern Australia, while a positive IOD reinforces it. Currently, water catchments are very low and soil moisture levels are significantly below average, with agribusinesses in various parts of Australia being severely impacted. These types of conditions are expected to become more frequent in the future with the growing effects of global warming.

Usage patterns and forecasts The two largest areas of water consumption in Australia are agribusiness and domestic urban use. Agribusiness is the largest single consumer of water in Australia, with the ABS reporting that in 2012–13 the industry consumed 11,900 GL. Since surface water resources have in most cases exceeded allocation limits, further agricultural expansion will require investment in alternative water sources, such as on-farm recycling and the expansion of water capture and storage facilities. The domestic household use of water was 14% of the total in 2009–10 (ABS) and 63% of urban water consumption. With the population expected to rise to between 36.8 and 48.3 million by 2061, the rise in urban water demand presents a significant challenge, and a long-term management plan is necessary. “Climate change forecasts suggest that natural water systems will become increasingly unreliable,” said Future Directions International. 2 “Much of southern Australia, where key agricultural areas are located, has been identified as particularly vulnerable to climate change… Australia will require greater volumes of water and more advanced infrastructure to meet user demand into the future. It also needs to become a more efficient water user.”

Getting more efficient means better measurement While additional water sources may need to be explored to assist with future demand, better utilisation of current resources is something that needs to

INSIGHTS 2016 5

Profile for Westwick-Farrow Media

Sustainability Matters Dec 2015/Jan 2016  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...

Sustainability Matters Dec 2015/Jan 2016  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...