Water Security & Australia

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Water is a vital resource for any person, city and indeed the entire world. Our lives, well being and economic prosperity depend upon our water supplies and managing them effectively and wisely.

Wars have been fought and not fought for the sake of water. Water security was one of the factors leading to the 1967 Six Day War between Israel and several Arab States. It is also rumored that alongside its decentralized civilian defense systems, threats by the Swiss to disrupt (poison) water supplies to Germany helped to keep Switzerland out of WWII.

Though water security is not just about international war and conflict. More often the biggest dangers to water security are environmental and usage factors such as drought and overuse. Water security and management is much more broad.

Water security relates to water supplies for human consumption and use that has;

  • Reliably available

  • Quantity that is acceptable

  • Quality that is acceptable

  • Acceptable level of risk as to reliability, quantity and quality

Australia is one of the driest countries on earth, combined with significant population growth and increasing periods of drought water security is top of the agenda.

In Australia water security is a core responsibility of the state and federal governments.  Providing healthy drinking water is a very important responsibility of the state health minister and the political fall out of unsafe water is immense. Also having to impose water restrictions is very unpopular with people and will lose votes.

As such there is a lot of competition between states and between different users for water. Australia’s primary water resource, the Murray Darling basin, runs through multiple Australian states and territories. This has caused significant debate and arguments especially in times of drought. The Council of Australian Governments or COAG is responsible for negotiating and resolving such water management issues.

Water conservation is a high priority in Australia with farms and other heavy users now investing in modern technologies in attempts to use less water. More efficient irrigation and less ‘thirsty’ crop types are among the new developments. To use water on a large commercial scale water licenses are required, which are heavily regulated by the State governments.

Municipal water supply and water treatment has mostly been privatized throughout Australia, though government oversight and management remains a heavy presence.

“You can turn anything wet into drinking water – provided you filter it through enough money” – Unknown

Government and private bodies are investing heavily into Australia’s water security through major infrastructure projects. Most states in Australia have one or more desalination plants. Desalination has been a politically popular choice to create an additional source of drinking water, though the cost and electricity consumption that accompanies desalination has been argued to be too excessive. Often new pipework supply lines have to be constructed to connect the entire capital city (or the entire state) to the desalination plant, which is another added expense.

As water supplies become more sensitive to climate factors and as demand for water increases, water security in Australia will become an ever-increasing issue. Major projects and technological advances combined with political will and cooperation will be required to ensure Australia’s limited water resources will continue to be secure.