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4617.0 - Environment by Numbers: Selected Articles on Australia's Environment, 2003  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/02/2003   
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MEDIA RELEASE

February 21, 2003
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)
24/2003
Measuring environmental pressures and challenges

The Australian Bureau of Statistics today released Environment by Numbers - a collection of articles on sustainability and the environment. Topics covered include climate change, Australia's rivers, renewable energy, forest conservation, salinity, and the impacts of transport, construction, fishing, mining, manufacturing and agriculture on the environment.

Some of the key findings include:


Rivers in Australia's intensive land use zone have been significantly modified

Catchment land use has significantly modified the physical and chemical nature of rivers in much of Australia’s intensive land use zone. These rivers now carry higher than natural levels of sediment and nutrient. In some regions the extraction of large volumes of water for agricultural, urban and industrial use has had a severe impact.

The consumption of Australia’s freshwater resources from lakes, rivers and underground has increased dramatically in the last two decades. Between 1983-84 and 1996-97 national water consumption increased from 14,600 GL to 23,300 GL annually.


Agriculture uses more land and water than any other industry

Agriculture covers approximately 60% of the country. Since European settlement of Australia around 100 million hectares of forest and woodland have been cleared, mostly for agricultural production, and land continues to be cleared for agriculture.

The combined impacts of land and water use for agricultural production have been substantial. For example:
  • The removal of native vegetation and the introduction of exotic species have contributed to the extinction and decline of many species of Australian wildlife.
  • The construction of dams and diversion of water from rivers have greatly altered water flows, reducing the amount of water flowing down rivers, and have changed the times of peak flows.
  • There has been a deterioration of soil and water quality in many areas.


Area of irrigated land has increased

Between 1990 and 2000 the area of irrigated land increased by more than half a million hectares (30%). The growth in irrigated area was greatest in Queensland, where an additional 236,000 ha (or 76%) were irrigated in 2000, compared to the area irrigated in 1990.
Irrigation can cause a decline in soil structure and water quality. The method of irrigation used influences the efficiency of water use and impacts on the environment. There has been a growth in the use of irrigation methods that are more efficient in terms of water delivery. In 2000 around 30% of irrigators reported using spray, micro spray or drip irrigation methods compared to 23% in 1990.


Energy use per capita has increased

Australia's total energy consumption increased by 23% during the 1990's, while its population increased by under 10%. The country's energy use per capita and its ratio of energy use to GDP is above the OECD average.


Renewable energy's share of total energy production has fallen

During the period from 1973 to 1998, the production of non-renewable fuels has shown an upward trend. In contrast, production of renewable energy sources (wood, bagasse, hydro-electricity and solar) has remained relatively stable, therefore reducing their share of total production over the period.


Wind energy is the fastest developing renewable energy source

Australia has among the best wind resources in the world and wind energy has become the cheapest renewable energy technology. Its use is expected to grow by 25% a year up to 2020, compared to 2.3% growth for total energy consumption.


Australians have become less concerned about environmental problems

In 1992, three out of four Australians expressed concern, but this fell to 62% in 2001. The decline was most pronounced among young Australians aged 18-24; only 57% expressed concern compared to 79% in 1992.

Fewer than one in ten people expressing concern about environmental problems registered their concern through action, such as writing letters, telephoning or signing a petition. Of the 8% that did take action, 37% signed a petition, 33% wrote letters and 27% used the telephone. 6% participated in a demonstration.

7% of Australians stated that they belonged to an environmental group. In 2001, 20% of Australians donated time or money to environmental protection. In 1992, the figure was over 28%.

Further information is in Environment by Numbers (cat no 4617.0)

Most articles presented in this publication were also included in 2003 ABS Year Book Australia.

Media please note: A fact sheet for your state or territory should accompany this release.


Environment by Numbers: Facts for New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory

A new publication, Environment by Numbers, released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics highlights a number of key issues affecting the environment in Australia. Some of the key findings for New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory include:

Climate change
  • Generally, air temperature has increased during the last 50 years in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
  • In central western New South Wales, temperatures decreased by 0 - 1oC over the last 50 years.
  • Eastern areas south of Sydney increased by up to 0.5oC from 1951 - 2001, while north of Sydney eastern areas have increased by 0.5 - 1.5oC.
  • The entire eastern coast is drier by 6 - 8 mm per year, an effect that reduces with distance west.
  • The northern and western regions are marginally wetter: 0 - 1mm per year.

Forest conservation
  • New South Wales has the largest area of protected native forest in Australia at 5,720,000 ha. This comprises 21% of the total forested area in New South Wales.
  • The Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) process increased forest reserves in Upper North East (189%), Lower North East (83%), Eden (66%) and Southern (40%) regions of the state.

Salinity
  • In 2002, 3,100 farms showed signs of salinity in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, 7.4% of all farms in the regions.
  • 124,000 ha are showing signs of salinity, of which 44,000 ha are unable to be used for production.
  • New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory planted 1.1 million ha of crops, pastures and fodder plants for salinity management, the largest area of any state.

Irrigation
  • In 2000, 944,000 ha were irrigated in New South Wales, the largest area of any state.

Environmental views and behaviour
  • 8% of people in New South Wales rely on bottled water as their main source of drinking water.
  • In 2000, 99.5% of households in the Australian Capital Territory recycled waste, the highest percentage of any state.
  • 59% of people in New South Wales report concern regarding environmental problems - the lowest percentage of any state or territory.
  • 71% of people in the Australian Capital Territory report concern regarding environmental problems - the highest percentage of any state or territory.


Environment by Numbers: Facts for Victoria


A new publication, Environment by Numbers, released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics highlights a number of key issues affecting the environment in Australia. Some of the key findings for Victoria include:

Climate change
  • The majority of Victoria is 0.5 - 1oC warmer than 50 years ago, however in the north-east of the state, East Gippsland is 0 - 0.5oC cooler.
  • Victoria is becoming progressively drier with up to 3 mm less rainfall per year.

Forest conservation
  • Victoria has the second largest area of protected forest in any state at 5,189,000 ha, (67% of the total native forest).
  • The Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) process increased forest reserves in each of the regions - Gippsland, East Gippsland, North East, West and Central Highlands.

Irrigation
  • In 2000, 626,000 ha were irrigated in Victoria, the second largest area of any state.

Salinity
  • In 2002, 4,800 farms showed signs of salinity in Victoria, accounting for 13.7% of the state's farms. This is the second highest number of farms affected for any state.
  • 139,000 ha are showing signs of salinity, of which 60,000 ha are unable to be used for production.
  • The National Action Plan (NAP) for Salinity and Water Quality identified 21 priority regions throughout Australia for addressing salinity and water quality. In Victoria, 94% of all area showing signs of salinity is located in NAP regions. 19% of farms in the Avoca-Loddon-Campaspe region showed signs of salinity (477 farms). In the Glenelg-Hopkins-Corangamite region this figure was 20% (1,378 farms).

Environmental views and behaviour
  • Victorian households are the most likely to practice water conservation, with 51% of households reporting taking some steps towards this.
  • In 2000, 99% of households in Victoria recycled waste, the second highest percentage of any state.


Environment by Numbers: Facts for Queensland

A new publication, Environment by Numbers, released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics highlights a number of key issues affecting the environment in Australia. Some of the key findings for Queensland include:

Climate change
  • Parts of Queensland have warmed more than 1oC in the past 50 years.
  • The majority of the state has warmed between 0.5 - 1oC from 1951 to 2000.
  • Generally, the eastern Queensland coast experienced drier conditions, the effect becoming less pronounced with distance west.
  • Parts of eastern Queensland received around 6 - 8 mm less rainfall per year from 1951 to 2001.
  • In the far north-east and north-west of the state there are areas where rainfall increased by 6 - 8 mm per year.

Forest conservation
  • 8% of Queensland's total native forest is protected (3,660,000 ha).

Coastal and marine environments
  • In 2002, bleaching extended over 1450 km of the 2300 km long Great Barrier Reef.
  • Within the Great Barrier Reef, 21% of reefs showed a high level of bleaching (30% or greater of the reef affected), 36% were moderately bleached (1 - 30% of the reef affected) and 43% had negligible levels of bleaching (less than 1% of the reef affected).

Irrigation
  • In 2000, 548,000 ha were irrigated in Queensland, the third largest area of any state.
  • From 1990 to 2000, Queensland had the greatest increase in irrigation area of any state - 236,000 ha or 76%.

Salinity
  • In 2002, 993 farms showed signs of salinity in Queensland, 3.4% of all farms in the state, the second smallest percentage of any state.
  • 107,000 ha are showing signs of salinity, of which 40,000 ha are unable to be used for production.


Environment by Numbers: Facts for Western Australia

A new publication, Environment by Numbers, released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics highlights a number of key issues affecting the environment in Australia. Some of the key findings for Western Australia include:

Climate change
  • The majority of Western Australia warmed by up to 1oC during the last 50 years, however there is a very large area in the north-east of the state bordering the Northern Territory where temperature decreased by up to 0.5oC.
  • The south-western corner of Western Australia became drier with up to 4 mm less rainfall per year, this impact reducing in severity with distance from the coast.
  • With increasing distance from the western coastline and particularly towards the north-eastern corner of the state, rainfall has been increasing by up to 8mm per year from 1951 to 2001.

Forest conservation
  • 13% of Western Australia's native forest is protected (4,364,000 ha).
  • The Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) process increased forest reserves in south west WA by 12%.

Irrigation
  • In 2000, 39,000 ha were irrigated in Western Australia, the second smallest area of any state.

Salinity
  • In 2002, 6900 farms showed signs of salinity in Western Australia, 51% of all farms in the state. This is the largest number and percentage of farms of any state.
  • 1.2 million ha are showing signs of salinity, of which 567,000 ha are unable to be used for production. This is more than 3 times larger than the state with the next largest area.
  • The National Action Plan (NAP) for Salinity and Water Quality identified 21 priority regions throughout Australia for addressing salinity and water quality. In Western Australia, 67% of all land showing signs of salinity is located in NAP regions. Western Australia's Avon region was the most affected NAP region with 2279 farms and 450,000 ha showing signs of salinity. 59% of farms were affected in the Northern Agricultural District (868 farms). 1354 farms were affected in the South coast region (64% of all farms). In the south west region, 1681 farms were affected, 50% of all farms.

Environmental views and behaviour
  • 7% of Western Australians rely on bottled water as their main source of drinking water.
  • Western Australians are the most likely (with South Australians) to contribute time or money towards environmental protection - 1 in 4 provided such support in 2001.
  • 58% of Western Australian households registered dissatisfaction with the taste of drinking water - the second highest percentage of any state.


Environment by Numbers: Facts for South Australia

A new publication, Environment by Numbers, released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics highlights a number of key issues affecting the environment in Australia. Some of the key findings for South Australia include:

Climate change
  • The majority of South Australia became warmer by around 0.5 - 1oC during the last 50 years.
  • From 1951 - 2001 most of South Australia became slightly wetter with up to 2mm more rainfall per year. However a section of the south-eastern coastline was slightly drier with up to 1mm less rainfall per year.

Forest conservation
  • 37% of the total native forest area in South Australia is protected (3,960,000 ha).

Irrigation
  • In 2000, 159,000 ha were irrigated in South Australia.

Salinity
  • In 2002, 3300 farms showed signs of salinity in South Australia, 22% of all farms in the state.
  • 350,000 ha are showing signs of salinity (the second largest area of any state), of which 105,000 ha are unable to be used for production.
  • 452,000 ha of crops, pastures and fodder plants were used for salinity management.
  • The National Action Plan (NAP) for Salinity and Water Quality identified 21 priority regions throughout Australia for addressing salinity and water quality. In South Australia, 43% of all area showing signs of salinity is located in NAP regions. Mt Lofty-Kangaroo Island - Northern Agricultural District contains 1451 farms that show signs of salinity - 28 % of all farms in the region.

Environmental views and behaviour
  • 16% of South Australians rely on bottled water as their main source of drinking water - the highest percentage for any state.
  • 42% of South Australians are dissatisfied with tap-water quality for drinking - the highest percentage for any state.
  • South Australians are the most likely people (along with Western Australians) to contribute time or money towards environmental protection - 1 in 4 provided such support in 2001.
  • 70% of South Australians report concern regarding environmental problems - the second highest percentage of any state.


Environment by Numbers: Facts for Tasmania

A new publication, Environment by Numbers, released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics highlights a number of key issues affecting the environment in Australia. Some of the key findings for Tasmania include:

Climate change
  • Tasmania has warmed by between 0.5 and 1.5oC during the past 50 years.
  • The majority of the west coast of Tasmania has become slightly wetter with up to 2mm more rainfall per year from 1951 - 2001.
  • The remainder of the state has become slightly drier by 0 - 3mm rainfall per year.

Forest conservation
  • 40% of Tasmania's native forest is protected - 1,261,000 ha.
  • The Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) process increased forest reserves in Tasmania by 19%.

Irrigation
  • In 2000, 62,000 ha were irrigated in Tasmania.

Salinity
  • In 2002, 390 farms showed signs of salinity - the second lowest number of any state. This represents 9.1% of the state's farms.
  • 6,000 ha are showing signs of salinity and 2,000 ha are unable to be used for production.
  • 7,000 ha of crops, pastures and fodder plants were used for salinity management and 5,000 ha of trees have also been planted for salinity management.
  • The National Action Plan (NAP) for Salinity and Water Quality identified 21 priority regions throughout Australia for addressing salinity and water quality. In Tasmania, 75% of all area showing signs of salinity occurs in the Midlands NAP region. It contains 188 farms showing signs of salinity - 16% of all farms in the region.

Environmental views and behaviour
  • 60% of Tasmanians report concern regarding environmental problems - the second lowest percentage of any state.


Environment by Numbers: Facts for the Northern Territory

A new publication, Environment by Numbers, released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics highlights a number of key issues affecting the environment in Australia. Some of the key findings for the Northern Territory include:

Climate change
  • The majority of the Northern Territory warmed by up to 1oC during the past 50 years. However a significant area on the western boundary of the territory cooled by up to 0.5oC in that time.
  • The Northern Territory was wetter with up to 8mm more rainfall per year from 1951 - 2001.

Forest conservation
  • Just 7% of total forest area in the Northern Territory is protected - 2,500,000 ha. This represents the lowest percentage of any state.

Irrigation
  • In 2000, 6,000 ha were irrigated in the Northern Territory, the smallest area of any state.

Salinity
  • In 2002, just 8 farms showed signs of salinity in the Northern Territory, representing only 2% of all farms in the state, the smallest percentage and number of farms of any state.
  • 2,000 ha are showing signs of salinity and unable to be used for production.
  • 6,000 ha of crops, pastures and fodder plants were used for salinity management.

Environmental views and behaviour
  • 90% of Northern Territorians are satisfied with tap-water quality for drinking, the most satisfied of any state.
  • 9% of Northern Territory households do not recycle their waste - the least likely of all the states and territories to recycle.

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