Water supply and use in Australia needs to be viewed in the context of Australia’s climate. Australia’s long-term annual average rainfall is the lowest of all the continents (except Antarctica). Rainfall in Australia is also highly variable, not only from region-to-region but also from year-to-year and from season-to-season.
In recent years, below-average rainfall in many parts of Australia has resulted in urban water restrictions and reduced availability of water for irrigators. The ABS Water Account Australia, 2004–05
(cat. no. 4610.0) shows decreases in water consumption for households and agriculture compared with 2000–01.
This section is divided into four main parts:
- Water consumption: Agriculture accounted for 65% of total water consumed in 2004–05. Household water use, which includes water for drinking, cooking, cleaning and outdoors, accounted for about 11% of total water consumed in Australia. The majority of household water is used for outdoor purposes (44%), such as water for gardens.
- Water conservation and management: The recent drought and ensuing water restrictions have firmly focused attention on the need to conserve water. While mandatory water restrictions in many parts of Australia limited household outdoor water use, many Australians have been voluntarily conserving water by adopting water saving practices and installing water saving devices (such as dual flush toilets and reduced flow shower heads).
- Water for the environment: Water quality and flows are directly related to river and wetland health. Diverting water from rivers for irrigation and urban uses disturbs the natural balance of freshwater ecosystems, including the animals and plants that live in and around them. Environmental flows recognise the need for an amount of water to maintain ecological health in rivers and wetlands.
- Marine and coastal waters: The marine environment and coast is important for Australia's society, economy and ecology. Many people like to live on or near the coast and take holidays at the beach. Economic benefits flow from marine industries such as shipping, tourism, fisheries, offshore oil and gas. The coastal and marine regions support a large range of species, many of them found only in Australian waters. The state of marine and coastal waters and efforts to preserve the marine environment are important for the benefit of future generations.