Clean and reliable running water is something we take for granted. Leanne Elliott examines the current state of Australian water, from drought to #Watergate.
We turn the tap and it is there; clean fresh water. With the push of a button, it flushes away our waste, and we use it to clean our clothes, cars, dishes, pets, and ourselves. It helps to nourish the parched agricultural industry and it allows us to live in parts of Australia where we otherwise could not.
Most Australians have become accustomed to water restrictions and we are increasingly having to rely on groundwater. But thanks to our infrastructure, many Australians still live in a land of plenty compared to some parts of the world.
But what is the current state of Australia’s water?
Key findings from a 2017-2018 Bureau of Meteorology water report include, “below-average rainfall and streamflow conditions in the east, drought in the Murray–Darling Basin, a decline in public water reserves, continued water trading with record number of trades, increase of total water abstractions, [and] reduced storage volumes at the start of 2018–19.”
It has also been a somewhat scandalous year, with #Watergate shining a spotlight on alleged corruption within Australian water trading system. Closed tenders, mysterious bank accounts in the Cayman Islands and a water buyback deal involving millions; sounds ripe for a Hollywood flick, though public interest and calls for an investigation soon stalled.
While technology and research provide us with a unique understanding of the state of Australian water, continuing drought sees farmers still losing crops, cattle and hope. Meanwhile, the demand for clean, fresh water from densely populated urban settlements and industry needs continues to grow. Plan as we may, Australia is a country vulnerable to water shortages, especially given it is the second driest continent in the world and its annual rainfall can be erratic, both in terms of how much it rains and where it rains.
Despite the seemingly bleak state of affairs, the Australian government assures us it is continuing to invest heavily in effective, sustainable water resource management and water security, and the continuing development and maintenance of global partnerships with industry leaders. Hopefully, the investments pay off.