This document was added or updated on 05/02/2010.
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.
This section is divided into four main parts:
- Water consumption: In recent years, below-average rainfall in many parts of Australia has resulted in urban water restrictions and reduced availability of water for farmers.
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.
Within the agricultural sector in 2007–08, 90% of water used was for irrigation. More than a quarter (26%) of irrigation water was used for pasture and crops for grazing, 15% for cereals (excluding rice) and 14% for sugar cane.
- Water conservation: 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 limit 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 management: Continuing low rainfall levels in parts of the Murray-Darling Basin in 2008–09 created strong demand for water transfers, which resulted in about 32,000 water trades during the year, totalling $2.2 billion and almost 4,000 gigalitres.
- Marine and coastal waters: The marine environment 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, and offshore oil and gas extraction. The coastal and marine regions support a large range of species, many of them found only in Australian waters. The preservation of the marine environment is vital for the benefit of future generations.