Sustainability is the ability to maintain a certain status or process in existing systems. The most frequent use of the term “sustainability” is connected to biological or human systems in the context of ecology. The ability of an ecosystem to function and maintain productivity for a prolonged period is also sustainability.
Living a sustainable lifestyle is one way to help. In this series pages we will go into what sustainability has to with ecology, recycling, water, and more. We will also reveal what some companies (like Petsmart and Disney) are doing to make a difference by operating their businesses in a sustainable way.
Water Sustainability in Australia / Special Challenges For a Water-Starved Continent
Australia faces special challenges in achieving sustainability. As the driest inhabited continent on earth, water resources are scarce and must be carefully managed. It ranks 40 out of 188 countries for water availability. The prevailing drought conditions aggravated by global warming demonstrate that levels of water use are completely unsustainable in Australia.
Exorbitant water usage, especially by heavy industry and water-intensive agro businesses, is causing irretrievable damage to the frail ecosystems and creating chronic water shortages. Meanwhile, the seas surrounding Australia make up 70 percent of its sovereign territory, yet 96 percent of this rich resource remains unmapped and unused. Therefore, the real challenge lies in conserving water properly and rationing its use according to need.
Water Sustainability in Australia / The CSIRO
Responding to these challenges, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) is developing scientific solutions for more sustainable, efficient and innovative use of Australia’s marine and fresh water resources. These involve better understanding of ocean systems and climate processes, more efficient land-use practices, improved irrigation, new water re-use and treatment technologies, integrated social and economic analysis, and monitoring and predictive tools.
To meet Australia’s water challenges, CSIRO leads two major national collaborative partnerships: the Water for a Healthy Country National Research Flagship and the Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship.
Water Sustainability in Australia / The Government Steps Up
In 2007 and 2008, CSIRO undertook the world’s first water resource assessment of its scale for the groundwater and surface waters of the Murray-Darling Basin, reporting on current and future climate scenarios and possible land management changes. In March 2008, the Council of Australian Governments expanded this assessment to provide a comprehensive scientific assessment of water yield in all major water systems across the country to allow a consistent analytical framework for water policy decisions across the nation. Regions currently being studied as a part of this expansion are Northern Australia, South-West Western Australia and Tasmania.
Secondly, the Australian Water Association (AWA) and the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment hosted “Ozwater09” in Melbourne from 16 to 18 March. The event, consisted of conferences and an exhibition, brought together water industry experts with community and government delegates to discuss sustainable water management in the future.
Ozwater09 addressed the wide-ranging issues that face the water industry today. These included major national water reforms, climate change and its impacts, technological advances and the challenges of human resources to name a few.
Furthermore, the Australian government undertook several steps in recent times for conservation of water. These include:
1. The National Water Initiative (a national blueprint for water reform).
2. The $2.2 billion Australian Government Water Fund, for investment in water infrastructure, which has improved water management and practices in the stewardship of Australia’s scarce water resources.
3. The Community Water Grants Program (a component of the Australian Government Water Fund) is saving over 28 billion liters of water every year through 3200 projects since 2005.
4. Returning 500 gigaliters a year to the River Murray by 2009 under the Living Murray Initiative, in which an initial $200 million was invested to restore river health, followed by $500 million in 2006 to improve capital works and environmental flows.
5. Creation of the world’s first national Water Efficiency Labeling and Standards Scheme, providing for water efficiency labels on showerheads, washing machines, toilets, dishwashers, urinals and taps.
6. The recently passed Water Act 2007 represents the biggest reform of water management in Australia’s history and will lead to implementation of the fundamental aspects of the $10 billion Water Plan, including:
7. Restoring the Balance in the Murray-Darling Basin Program (water entitlement purchasing).
Water Sustainability in Australia / Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program
Though several firm steps have been taken to ensure sustainability of water in Australia, the decision to abolish Land & Water Australia has placed the long-term productive sustainability of Australia’s land and water resources at risk. The corporation has been equipping Australia’s farmers with the best available science and technology to manage our soil, water and vegetation for 19 years.
Thank you for visiting the Water Sustainability in Australia page. For more information on sustainability follow these links: