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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2006  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/01/2006   
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WATER

Water is a critical resource supporting Australia's environmental, social and economic systems. By world standards Australia is a dry continent with few freshwater resources. In some regions, the biological condition of the river, wetlands and groundwater dependent ecosystems has been degraded by the extraction of water for agriculture, household and industrial use.

WATER SUPPLY AND USE

Diagram 24.1 shows the supply and use of water in Australia for 2000-01 which is the latest data available, but it precedes the onset of the recent drought. (Information on the drought is provided in the Geography and climate chapter). In total 72,431 gigalitres (GL) of water was extracted from the environment and used within the Australian economy. Of this amount, water providers accounted for 12,784 GL of water extracted, mostly by the water supply, sewerage and drainage services industry (12,765 GL), while water users directly accounted for 59,647 GL. Of the volume extracted by water providers, 12,324 GL was supplied as mains water to water users and 459 GL was returned to the environment as environmental flows.

Of the 72,431 GL of water extracted from the environment in 2000-01, most was used in-stream (mainly for hydro-electricity generation) and is available almost immediately for use further downstream. Excluding this 'non-consumptive' use of water, Australian industries and households used 24,909 GL of water in 2000-01.


24.1 WATER SUPPLY AND USE IN THE AUSTRALIAN ECONOMY - 2000-01

Diagram 24.1: WATER SUPPLY AND USE IN THE AUSTRALIAN ECONOMY - 2000-01

Source: Water Account, Australia, 2000-01 (4610.0).


Water consumption by industry

Agriculture was by far the largest consumer of water in 2000-01, accounting for 67% (16,660 GL) of total water use in Australia (graph 24.2, table 24.3). Households were the next highest consumers of water, accounting for 8.8% (2,181 GL) of water use. Total water use in households increased 19% between 1996-97 and 2000-01. The average household water use was 115 kilolitres/person in 2000-01. The water supply, sewerage and drainage services industry was also a significant consumer of water, accounting for 7.2% (1,794 GL) of water use, followed by the electricity and gas supply industry which consumed 6.8% (1,688 GL), excluding in-stream water use for hydro-electricity generation. Mining accounted for 1.6% (401 GL) of water use, while manufacturing accounted for 3.5% (866 GL) of the total water consumption in 2000-01.

Graph 24.2: WATER CONSUMPTION, By industry - 2000-01


New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory combined used the most water - 9,425 GL (or 38% of the total) - and 78% of this was used in agriculture. In Victoria, agriculture accounted for 52% of the total, however, the electricity and gas supply industry also contributed a high proportion (22%) compared with that contributed by other states and territories.

24.3 INDUSTRY AND HOUSEHOLD WATER CONSUMPTION - 2000-01
NSW(a)
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
Aust.
GL
GL
GL
GL
GL
GL
GL
GL

Agriculture
7,322
3,725
3,454
1,302
565
222
70
16,660
Forestry and fishing(b)
4
4
2
1
13
2
0
27
Mining
52
7
109
12
195
21
5
401
Manufacturing
179
249
181
86
83
79
9
866
Electricity and gas supply
59
1,536
71
2
19
0
1
1,688
Water supply(c)
676
745
216
24
114
10
9
1,794
Other
254
148
172
38
175
24
22
833
Households
679
472
501
181
245
59
45
2,181
Environment
201
253
4
1
-
-
-
459
Total
9,425
7,140
4,711
1,646
1,409
417
161
24,909

(a) Includes ACT.
(b) Includes services to agriculture; hunting and trapping.
(c) Includes sewerage and drainage services.

Source: Water Account, Australia, 2000-01 (4610.0).


Water use by agriculture

Water used by agriculture includes water applied through irrigation to crops, pastures, or fed to livestock, that has been directly extracted from the environment by farmers (e.g. from bores, on-farm dams, rivers) or supplied by water providers (e.g. irrigation authorities). It excludes the use of rainwater.

While 2000-01 is the latest year for which information on water use is available for the entire economy, information on agricultural water use is available for 2002-03. The estimates of water use by agriculture for 2000-01 and 2002-03 are not strictly comparable, but a lower level of water use by the sector is apparent and may be attributed to the drought.

Australian agricultural establishments applied 10,404 GL of irrigation water to 2.4 million hectares (ha) of crops and pastures in 2002-03 (table 24.4). Agricultural establishments in New South Wales applied the largest volume of irrigation water (4,273 GL) to the largest area (939,000 ha) of the states and territories. Western Australian agricultural establishments reported the highest irrigation application rate (6.5 megalitres (ML)/ha) and Tasmanian establishments reported the lowest (2.4 ML/ha).

24.4 IRRIGATION WATER USE - 2002-03

Agricultural
establishments irrigating
Area irrigated
Volume applied
Application rate
no.
'000 ha
'000 ML
ML/ha(a)

NSW(b)
11,230
939
4,272.7
4.6
Vic.
12,005
593
2,464.4
4.2
Qld
10,278
525
2,229.0
4.3
SA
5,471
183
899.5
4.9
WA
2,731
48
313.2
6.5
Tas.
1,923
87
209.0
2.4
NT
136
3
16.0
4.7
Aust.
43,774
2,378
10,403.8
4.4

(a) Averaged across all irrigated pastures and crops.
(b) Includes ACT.
Note: The number of irrigating establishments differs from the number of customers serviced by water authorities. This is because not all customers fall within the scope of the survey and because an agricultural establishment may be more than one customer of a water authority.

Source: Water Use on Australian Farms, 2002-03 (4618.0).


In Australia during 2002-03, 10,404 GL of irrigation water was used on agricultural establishments (table 24.5). The largest volume of irrigation water that was applied on pastures for grazing purposes (2,827 GL), followed by cotton (1,526 GL), sugar cane (1,293 GL) and cereal crops for grains or seed (1,002 GL). The smallest volume of irrigation water was used for vegetables for seed (8 GL) followed by nurseries, cut flowers or cultivated turf (78 GL). Rice required the highest application rate of irrigation water (14.1 ML/ha), followed by cotton (6.5 ML/ha). Vegetables for seed have the lowest application rate (2.3 ML/ha).

24.5 PASTURES AND CROPS IRRIGATED - 2002-03
Agricultural
establishments irrigating
Area irrigated
Volume applied
Application rate
no.
'000 ha
'000 ML
ML/ha(a)

Pasture for grazing
14,419
710
2,826.9
4.0
Pasture for seed production
^572
^32
^138.8
4.4
Pasture for hay and silage
6,206
162
682.7
4.2
Cereal crops cut for hay
2,215
^66
^245.6
3.7
Cereal crops for grain or seed(b)
3,569
365
1,001.6
2.8
Cereal crops not for grain or seed
^1,764
42
^127.1
3.0
Rice
631
44
615.4
14.1
Sugar cane
2,710
238
1,293.1
5.4
Cotton
647
234
1,525.5
6.5
Other broadacre crops(c)
1,879
68
172.2
2.5
Fruit trees, nut trees, plantation or berry fruits(d)
8,604
138
659.9
4.8
Vegetables for human consumption
5,225
112
439.2
3.9
Vegetables for seed
341
4
8.4
2.3
Nurseries, cutflowers or cultivated turf
2,956
13
77.9
5.8
Grapevines
8,114
150
588.8
3.9
Total(e)
(f)43,774
2,378
10,403.8
4.4

(a) Averaged across all states and territories.
(b) Excludes rice.
(c) Excludes sugar cane and cotton.
(d) Excludes grapevines.
(e) Totals include other pastures and crops not elsewhere classified.
(f) Total does not equal the sum of agricultural establishments as many establishments grow or irrigate more than one crop.

Source: Water Use on Australian Farms, 2002-03 (4618.0).


Household water use

Water use by households (also referred to as domestic water use) includes water that is used for human consumption (such as for drinking and cooking) as well as water used by households for cleaning or outdoors (such as water for gardens and swimming pools).

In 2000-01 the total water used by households was 2,181 GL, increasing from 1,829 GL in 1996-97 and 1,704 GL in 1993-94. This rise can be attributed in part to an increase of population (6% nationally from 1993-94 to 2000-01) and improved metering, coverage and reporting of water use in 2000-01. The majority of household water was used for outdoor purposes (44%), followed by indoor uses, including bathrooms (20%) and toilets (15%) (graph 24.6).

Graph 24.6: HOUSEHOLD WATER USE(a), By location of use - 2000-01

Reuse water

Reuse water is defined as wastewater that may have been treated to some extent and then used again without first being discharged to the environment. Reuse water is supplied mainly by the water supply industry, but may also be supplied by other industries (such as mining and manufacturing). Reuse water supplied by irrigation/rural water providers through regional reuse schemes has also been included.

The use of reuse water has increased almost threefold since 1996-97, although the volume is still relatively small. In 1996-97 there were 134 GL of reuse water used in Australia, which made up less than 1% of total water use in that year. By 2000-01 this volume had increased to 516 GL. However, this use still accounted for less than 1% of total water use. A large proportion of reuse water use is sourced from rural/irrigation regional reuse schemes.

The agriculture industry was the largest user of reuse water in 2000-01, accounting for 423 GL or 82% of all reuse water used in Australia (graph 24.7). The majority of reuse water used by the agriculture industry was for application to pastures (45%), although rice crops were also significant users (29%).

Graph 24.7: REUSE WATER USE, By industry


WATER STOCKS

Rainfall, or the lack of it, is the single most important factor determining land use and rural production in Australia. The relative scarcity of both surface water and groundwater resources, together with low rates of precipitation, has led to programs to regulate water supply by construction of dams, reservoirs, large tanks and other storages.

Surface water stocks

Water stocks are usually divided into surface water and groundwater resources. Surface water resources are often represented by Mean Annual Run-off (MAR). MAR is the average annual streamflow passing a specified point (NLWRA 2001) or the maximum average annual flow observed in a river basin (AWRC 1987). In 2000, the total MAR for Australia was 387,184 GL, but the distribution was geographically uneven (map 24.8).

24.8 SURFACE WATER, MEAN ANNUAL RUN-OFF, By river basin - 2000
Map 24.8: SURFACE WATER, MEAN ANNUAL RUN-OFF, By river basin - 2000

(a) Data not available for a number of reasons. Refer to <http://audit.ea.gov.au//> for more information.

Source: Adapted from AWRC; NLWRA 2001.


Table 24.9 summarises Australia's surface water stocks by drainage division. The drainage division with the highest intensity (GL/km
2) of run-off is Tasmania with 0.67 GL/km2. Conversely, the vast area of the Western Plateau, almost a third of Australia's total land area, has no significant run-off.

24.9 SURFACE WATER STOCKS - 2000
Mean annual run-off intensity

Area
Total
Intensity
Drainage division
km2
GL
GL/km2

North-East Coast
451,000
73,411
0.16
South-East Coast(a)
274,000
42,390
0.15
Tasmania(b)
68,200
45,582
0.67
Murray-Darling Basin(a)
1,060,000
23,850
0.02
South Australian Gulf(c)
82,300
952
0.01
South-West Coast
315,000
6,785
0.02
Indian Ocean
519,000
4,609
0.01
Timor Sea
547,000
83,320
0.15
Gulf of Carpentaria
641,000
95,615
0.15
Lake Eyre
1,170,000
8,638
0.01
Bulloo-Bancannia
101,000
546
0.01
Western Plateau
2,450,000
1,486
0.00
Total
7,680,000
387,184
0.05

(a) South-East Coast and Murray-Darling Division. The volume diverted represents the sum of available data (NSW has not reported water use for unregulated surface water management areas).
(b) Tasmanian Division. Volume diverted does not include the hydro-electric scheme diversions.
(c) South Australian Gulf Division. Mean annual outflow includes the flow from surface water management areas Willochra Creek and Lake Torrens, which do not flow to the sea, but flow into the terminal lake, Lake Torrens.

Source: NLWRA 2001.


Developed yield (also referred to as Economic Allocated volumes) is the average annual volume of water that can be diverted for use with the existing infrastructure (NLWRA 2001). Map 24.10 shows the developed yield as a percentage of MAR in 2000. The highest proportions are located in the south east and north east areas of Australia.

24.10 SURFACE WATER, DEVELOPED YIELD, By river basin - 2000
Map 24.10: SURFACE WATER, DEVELOPED YIELD, By river basin - 2000

Source: Adapted from AWRC; NLWRA 2001.


Groundwater stocks

The volume of groundwater that exists in Australia is not known with certainty. The volume changes as water percolates through the ground to aquifers (underground water resources) and through water being extracted (e.g. from bores). Instead of an absolute measure of groundwater stock, a proxy is used. This is the amount of water that can be sustainably extracted, referred to as sustainable yield.

Sustainable yield is defined as:
    Level of extraction measured over a specified planning time frame that should not be exceeded to protect the higher value social, environmental and economic uses associated with the aquifer (NLWRA 2001).

The 2001 National Land and Water Resources Audit (NLWRA) estimated the sustainable yield of groundwater in Australia to be 29,173 GL. Groundwater is not all of equal quality. In particular, the concentration of salt dissolved in water varies (map 24.11). The level of dissolved salt determines the potential uses of the water. The higher the salt level the less suitable the water is for human consumption or agriculture. Typically, a salinity level of more than 1,500 milligrams/litre (mg/L) restricts the use of water for irrigation. Map 24.11 shows the percentage of groundwater resource in each province with salinity over 1,500 (mg/L) in 2000. Salt occurs naturally in Australian soils but through irrigation and land clearing the levels of salt can increase in soils and water. Table 24.12 shows, proportionally, Northern Territory, Tasmania and Queensland have groundwater with the lowest salinity levels (less than 1,500 mg/L), while Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia have the highest (1,500 mg/L and over).

24.11 GROUNDWATER, Salinity levels over 1,500 mg/L - 2000
Map 24.11: GROUNDWATER, Salinity levels over 1,500 mg/L - 2000

Source: Data based on NLWRA 2001. Australian Groundwater Provinces are based on data provided in 2000 with the permission of the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines, Environment ACT, NSW Department of Land and Water Conservation, NT Department of Lands, Planning and Environment, SA Department of Water Resources, Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, Victorian Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, WA Water and Rivers Commission, and the Australian Surveying and Land Information Group.

24.12 SUSTAINABLE YIELD GROUNDWATER, By level of salinity - 2000

NSW
Vic.
Qld
SA
WA
Tas.
NT
Aust.
GL
GL
GL
GL
GL
GL
GL
GL

Less than 1,500 mg/L
Less than 500 mg/L
698
194
1,373
56
1,899
1,585
4,412
10,217
500-1,000 mg/L
3,928
827
995
229
1,061
767
287
8,093
1,000-1,500 mg/L
34
386
119
679
995
-
455
2,670
Total
4,660
1,407
2,487
964
3,955
2,353
5,154
20,980
1,500 mg/L and over
1,500-3,000 mg/L
812
244
113
253
1,468
178
139
3,208
3,000-5,000 mg/L
2
707
30
-
588
-
183
1,510
5,000-14,000 mg/L
440
201
63
762
841
-
-
2,307
More than 14,000 mg/L
-
797
-
-
371
-
-
1,168
Total
1,254
1,949
206
1,015
3,268
178
322
8,193
Total sustainable yield
5,914
3,356
2,693
1,979
7,223
2,531
5,476
29,173
Proportion (%)
Less than 1,500 mg/L
79
42
92
49
55
93
94
72
1,500 mg/L and over
21
58
8
51
45
7
6
28

Source: Water Account, Australia, 2000-01 (4610.0).


Water assets


There are several dimensions to water assets including the physical availability of water or water stocks, the administrative (e.g. licences and entitlements) and the physical infrastructure (dams, pipes, etc.) that are used to store and deliver water.

Information on the storage capacity of large dams in each state and territory (except the Australian Capital Territory) is available from the Register of Large Dams (Australian National Committee on Large Dams 2002). There are approximately 500 large dams in Australia with a storage capacity of 84,793 GL. Tasmania (24,340 GL) and New South Wales (24,814 GL) have the largest storage capacity, while the Australian Capital Territory (124 GL) and South Australia (261 GL) have the least (graph 24.13). Most of Australia's dam capacity has been built since 1970 (graph 24.14).

Graph 24.13: WATER STORAGE CAPACITY OF LARGE DAMS - 2001


Graph 24.14: TOTAL WATER STORAGE CAPACITY OF LARGE DAMS


Drinking water

The majority of Australians (80%) rely on mains or town water for drinking (graph 24.15). This reliance on mains or town water for drinking is more pronounced in the capital cities (89% of households in 2004) than outside capital cities (67% of households). South Australians are least reliant on mains as their main source of water for drinking although this has increased significantly from 50% in 2001 to 60% in 2004.

Graph 24.15: MAIN SOURCE OF DRINKING WATER


The use of water filters in drinking water in Australian households has also increased from 21% in 2001 to 26% of households in 2004 (graph 24.16). This increase in the use of water filters was greatest in South Australia (from 23% in 2001 to 30% in 2004), and Western Australia (from 24% in 2001 to 29% in 2004).

Graph 24.16: USE OF WATER FILTERS


There was a general increase in the satisfaction with the quality of mains/town water for drinking, with 70% of people satisfied in 2004 compared with 66% in 2001 (graph 24.17). The level of satisfaction varied between states and territories. The Northern Territory (89%) and the Australian Capital Territory (87%) had the highest rates of satisfaction, while South Australia (52%) had the lowest levels of satisfaction.


New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania all reported increased satisfaction with the quality of their mains drinking water since 2001. Generally, there has been an increase in the levels of satisfaction across Australia (from 64% in 1994 to 70% in 2004).

Graph 24.17: SATISFACTION WITH QUALITY OF TAP WATER FOR DRINKING


Water conservation practices

During the three years to mid-2004, the majority of Australia experienced drought conditions. This led to the introduction of water restrictions in most capital cities around Australia during 2002-03. Water restrictions varied from voluntary reductions of water use to mandatory restrictions. Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Hobart and Canberra all experienced water restrictions during 2002-03. Brisbane had permanent restrictions on the times residents were able to use sprinklers. The only capital city not affected by water restrictions during 2002-03 was Darwin.

For households, these restrictions limited the use of water outside the house, primarily in the garden. The following data reflect the impact of the drought and subsequent water restrictions in many regions of Australia in recent times. For example, 32% of households in 2004 nominated supply restrictions as a problem compared with 7% in 2001.

The use of both reduced flow shower heads and dual flush toilets in Australian households continues to grow. Nearly three-quarters of households (74%) had dual flush toilets in 2004, up from 64% in 2001 (graph 24.18). Reduced flow shower heads were installed in 44% of households (up from 35% in 2001). Nearly one in five (18%) Australian households have neither a dual flush toilet nor a reduced flow shower head, down from 27% in 2001.

Graph 24.18: WATER CONSERVATION DEVICES USED


Less than half of all Australian households (46%) reported using one or more water conservation practices in 2004.


The most popular measures adopted included using full loads when washing dishes and clothes, and taking shorter showers (18% of all households reported doing each of these) (graph 24.19). These measures were particularly popular in Victoria, where over one-quarter of households undertook these activities.

Recycling and/or reusing water was reported by 16% of all households, up from 11% in 2001. Of Australian Capital Territory households 28% recycled or reused water (up from 10% in 2001). These were also popular activities in Victoria and Western Australia (21%, up from 14% in both states). Turning off or repairing dripping taps to conserve water was also reported by 16% of households (down from 20% in 2001).

Graph 24.19: WATER CONSERVATION PRACTICES TAKEN IN HOME


Since 1994, the proportion of Australian households with gardens has steadily declined (from 87% in 1994 to 83% in 2004). More than 90% of households with gardens reported taking measures in the garden to conserve water. States and territories that reported an overall increase in measures to conserve water in the garden since 2001 included New South Wales (86% to 90% of households), Victoria (90% to 93%) and South Australia (90% to 93%).


The measure reported most often by households to conserve water in the garden was using mulch (58% in 2004, up from 51% in 2001) (graph 24.20). Watering early in the morning or late in the evening was the next most popular water conservation measure for the garden, (23%). Almost one in five households (18%) used recycled water on the garden, a significant increase from 11% in 2001.

In 2004, 17% of households reported planting native trees or shrubs as a water conservation measure, up from 10% in 2001. Over one-quarter of households in South Australia and Western Australia reported this (26% and 28%, respectively).

Graph 24.20: WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES APPLIED IN GARDEN


Hand watering of the garden was used more often in 2004 than in previous years (graph 24.21). In 2004, 71% of Australian households hand watered their garden compared with 66% in 2001. There was a corresponding decrease in the use of fixed and movable sprinklers (from 28% in 2001 to 15% in 2004 for movable sprinklers, and from 31% to 22% for fixed sprinkler systems). Just over three quarters of households in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory used hand watering.

Graph 24.21: WATERING METHODS USED IN GARDEN


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