Water Scarcity in Australia

3589 words (14 pages) Essay

18th May 2020 Environmental Sciences Reference this

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Introduction

With a rise in population all over the world and an increasing industrial work, there have been high demands for water for domestic consumption as well as for industrial processing. According to the Global Monthly Water Scarcity, Bluewater Footprints Versus Water Availability (Hoekstra et al., 2012). An increasing number of rivers are drying up hence the sea lacks input over a substantial period. In many places across the world, groundwater is being drawn at rates that exceed replenishment, depleting aquifers and the base flows of rivers.

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Due to the constant increase in demand for water supply, water has become a major threat to sustainable human development, therefore, subjecting it as a major global crisis according to Four People Facing Severe Water Scarcity (Mesfin M. Mekonnen et al., 2016).

Figure 1. Water scarcity in the Murray-Darling River Basin in Australia between the years 1996-2005. ‘The Global Monthly Water Scarcity’ Bluewater Footprints Versus Water Availability (Hoekstra et al., 2012).

The total water available refers to the natural runoff minus environmental flow requirement that is represented in green. According to figure 1 above, it indicates that of May through to October, the blue water footprint exceeds net available water, therefore, it implies that during these months the average environmental flow requirement is not achieved. When the blue water footprint moves into the yellow, orange and red colors, water scarcity is moderate, significant and severe, respectively. The demand for water in the world is determined by the following factors, ‘Four people Facing Severe Water Scarcity’ (Mesfin M. Mekonnen et al., 2016). It includes:

1)     Increasing world population

2)     Improving living standards

3)     Changing consumption patterns

4)     Expansion of irrigated agriculture.

  1. INCREASE IN WORLD POPULATION

In Australia, the population pattern is one of growing and aging. The 2010 intergenerational Report that Population growth is projected to slow to an average annual rate of 1.2 percent over the next 40 years which slightly below 1.4 percent average annual rate of growth in the previous 40 years. Population growth as indicated is due to an increase in natural growth and net overseas migration. Fertility and mortality rates are the determinants of the natural rate of increase in the population while net overseas migration is comprised of permanent migration (including skilled and family) and temporary migration (including temporary skilled and students). It is expected to continue at a similar rate as a proportion of the population to the past 40 years on average. They argue that with slower population growth the total population is projected to be 35.9 million people by 2050, with this increase it is evident that there will be more requirement for water use which already is at a crisis.

Chart 1: Population growth rate for the aging and the growing population.

The   Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) projects that a population increase of up to 35.5 million would result in a 76% rise in urban water demand by 2056, these include the industrial, commercial and domestic use. This decision is reached through the considerations of population growth and the impact of increased demands on Australia’s water. Households are approximated to consume up to 13% of the total water usage compared to agricultural activities, which at estimate consumes 54%. According to ABS, urban households are considered to be increasing quite fast with a projection of 8.2 million in 2010 to 11.5 million by 2031thus indicating there might be an increase in household’s consumption and demands hence contributing to water scarcity.

 

Chart 2. Shows the population growth of cities concerning growth projections.

An increase in population is an indication of a rise in water demand for domestic use as well as water for consumption, therefore, it suggests that water scarcity is likely to be experienced and as time goes by the problem seems to be worsening.

  1. IMPROVING LIVING STANDARDS.

Irving standards in urban areas are mostly considered as high as compared to the outskirts in Australia’s major cities. With an increase in Industries in cities, there is an increase in demand for water for the management of machines as well as for processing and sanitation. Water is an important input to almost every industry. With increased industrialization, the consumption of water in the water sources is being exceeded that is expected. Australia’s Future Economic growth argues that Water is essential for Australia’s economic prosperity. It also states the fact that water resources are scarce it indicates that water, like other limited inputs to economic production, requirements to be used efficiently and allocated to its highest value uses to improve and achieve economic and environmental outcomes.

 

 

 

Table 1. National water consumption by industry sector between the year 2000-2009 by state and territory

Source: Australia Bureau of Statistics.

 The report indicates that in 2008–09Australia consumed about 2/3 of the water used in 2000–01 due to restricted supply caused by widespread drought the decrease was mostly within the agricultural sector.

Industry sector

Water consumption (GL), Australia

Water consumption (GL), by state and territory, 2008–09

2000–01

2004–05

2008–09

NSW

Vic

Old

SA

WA

Tas

NT

ACT

Agriculture

14 989

12 191

6996

2001

1435

2144

788

325

264

35

2

Electricity and gas

255

271

328

92

123

82

2

27

1

Manufacturing

549

589

677

150

158

148

88

61

50

22

Forestry and fishing

40

47

101

1

1

6

2

89

3

Household

2278

2108

1768

536

342

308

122

326

69

39

27

Mining

321

413

508

66

6

118

22

257

18

21

Water supply

2165

2083

2396

1329

558

297

111

64

22

9

7

Other industries

1106

1063

1327

387

367

249

79

176

30

27

11

Total

21 703

18 767

14 101

4562

2991

3351

1168

1371

456

154

48

  1. Expansion of irrigated agriculture.

Australia is a major food exporting country however it has recently been observed by journals that water scarcity as a result of global climate change and its effects such as drought has led to a drastic reduction of food production hence leading to a global crisis on food security. This calls for the need to allocate more water into irrigated agriculture for more Australian farms. (Fischer et al) estimates that future increase in irrigation water requirement will exceed50% in developing areas and about 16%in developed regions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2.0 Representation of grabbed water volumes and agricultural water in 24 countries and accounts of water losses


The initial stage in the agricultural department is to calculate how much water is needed by crops with the underlying climatic conditions. Methods, such as soil monitoring, eddy covariance, the Bowen ratio, and surface renewal, are used to observe and record irrigation requirements.

If the water for irrigated agriculture is preserved and the remaining water is managed well, there will be adequate food supply in Australia irrespective of the water scarcity. About two million hectares that are less than 1% of Australia’s total land mass is under irrigation and this produces about 50% of agricultural produces. Nearly 75% of this irrigated agriculture happens in the Murray-Darling Basin where water requirements and depths of water collection from rivers and ground-water have been overexploited hence are unsustainable. About1% of the mean annual flow in the basin is rerouted with the result that the entry of the Murray has often closed in recent years of lower rainfall. To cope with climate fluctuation more than twice the average annual flow in the basin is held in reserve. Such high levels of reserve and collection have very distractive impacts on the well-being of the rivers, floodplains, wetlands, and estuaries of the Murray.

 

 

Fig 3.0 Storage capacity and diversions in the Murray-Darling Basin from 1920 to 2000

Source: (Water and the Australian Economy, April 1991)

Management of the water scarcity

 

Probable Environmental Flow Standard

As proposed by Richter et al and Hoekstra et al, to establish the environmental flow requirement, we have adopted the “probable environmental flow standard. To achieve this the governance of water should have a clear understanding of the water availability and the rate of usage about its replenishment. As suggested by Richter et al. This probable standard is applicable only when site-specific scientific study of environmental flow requirements has not been undertaken. The probable standard is meant to be a precautionary approach to estimating environmental flow requirements when detailed local research has not been established, which is presently the case for the vast majority of the world’s river basins.

 

National and regional regulations and frameworks

Davis et al. (2015) noted that present governing and legal environments for water were prepared mainly with grey-infrastructure approaches in mind. Therefore, this indicates that it will be a challenge for Australian water catchment bodies and other governing bodies to implement a framework that would work towards achieving its National and regional regulations and frameworks for water consumption, therefore it may require that government and the governing bodies to assess areas that require adjustment, change legislation and regulations as well as funding and research to be able to solve issues of blockage to NBS uptake

Water Governance in Australia and Brazil: Main Legal and Institutional Aspects

Australia and Brazil have made a noticeable impact on their water management legal and Institutional strategy within the last two decades. The force behind this course varies in each country, for Australia severe drought was the main reason for change whereas in Brazil new socio-political alignment in the early 1990s was the main cause for the review of the water management system. It is noted that both countries have various steps in decision-making as shown in figure 4 below which shows various techniques employed by the water governance together with its stakeholders to tackle drought issues.

Figure 4: Timeline   for  water  policies,   programs,  acts   and   initiatives by  Australia  and   Brazil

 

Investigating the sustainability challenge of water and wastewater services

(CSIRO., 2010) scientists have researched water supply with energy use and its impact either directly or by diffused greenhouse gas emission sources across South-East Queensland’s water layout to increase environmental sustainability and reduce energy regulation. They argue that research has observed alternative sources for water supply and usage through recycling, reuse and desalinization however these findings are faced with a challenge of lack of information on the number of pollutants which include greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere from the reservoirs and wastewater systems. These pollutants are known as diffuse emissions. To address the lack of information, it requires an understanding of the water-energy and greenhouse gas balance in the entire integrated water systems, which includes supplied water systems, recycled water, and desalination as well as diffused emissions from reservoirs.

 

 

Conclusion

The government of Australia should create extensive awareness to the citizens on the challenge of scarcity of water.

All regulations about the industrial use of water should be adhered to at all times to ensure the sustainability of water management.

The government should invest in the technology of recycling water as well as harvesting stormwater for use.

The government should foster innovation whereby alternative cooling methods are used without necessarily using water or having chemical procedures that don’t include water as a requirement.

Reference

  • Global Monthly Water Scarcity (Hoekstra, Arjen Y, et al., 2012): Blue Water Footprints versus Blue Water Availability.  Department of Water Engineering and Management, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands. 
  • Water management, Four Billion People Facing Severe Scarcity (Mesfin M. et al., 2016); Faculty of Engineering Technology Science Advances,2012, vol. 2(2)
  • Water Scarcity and Future Challenges for food (Athanasios et al., 2015) production virtual water trade, water availability and future demand scenarios, and to propose potential solutions to cope with water scarcity for food production. 2.
  • (Ashok K.., 2016) Water, Drought, Crisis, and Governance in Austria and Brazil
  •  Research from A.K. Sharma and co-authors provides new data about hydrology. (Report)“The provision of water and wastewater services… environment. A    methodology for the selection of sustainable… of the journal Water Science (CSIRO., 2010) The Science of Providing Water Solutions for Australia. Science Letter, Sept 28, 2010, p.2119
  • Journal of Developments in Sustainable Agriculture, 2006, Vol.1(1), pp.17-24 (Chatres et al., 2000) Can Australia Overcome its Water Scarcity Problem?

 

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