Water supply and consumption in Australia - statistics & facts

Water scarcity has always been a contentious issue in Australia, a country which is known as the driest inhabited continent in the world. The recent 2018-19 summer was the hottest on record, causing waterholes to dry up which adversely affected cattle and wildlife as well as crop production. Lower rainfall has led to a reducing share of water in storage dams across the country, with water catchments struggling to maintain a sustainable water supply in most regions. This has been exacerbated by the increasing demand for water by both household and industry consumers.

The majority of Australia’s water is sourced from surface water and groundwater. Surface water stored in dams or reservoirs are the main source for the municipal water supply, which means Australia’s water supply is vulnerable to the effects of climatic change occurring across the country. In particular, lower rainfall can impact the water availability in the country. Groundwater extraction in Australia has been on the rise, supplying water to many different states, such as Western Australia, where surface water is limited.

Water is a crucial resource for Australia’s agriculture industry in particular. Crops including cereals, cotton, and sugar cane all require large volumes of water for irrigation. The Murray-Darling Basin, one of the largest and most significant agricultural areas in Australia, depends on access to millions of liters of water each year for agricultural purposes.

Household consumers have also seen the impact of water scarcity, with Brisbane having one of the most expensive prices for water in the world. Expenditure on public water services by households in Australia has increased per kiloliter over the years. On top of this, water restrictions have been imposed in many regions in order to combat drought and water shortages. Unsurprisingly, around three quarters of Australians believe the climate is changing.

Following global trends, alternative sources of water are becoming more prevalent in Australia. Treatment applications such as seawater desalination and reclaimed water are increasing in popularity, while integrated stormwater management solutions are also being sought to preserve valuable potable water. It is clear that the future of water sustainability in Australia will depend on effective governance, driven by environmentally-oriented development and political objectives.

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Water supply and consumption in Australia

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