1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/09/2010   
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Water (inland)


The condition of Australia's water systems is an important indicator of whether life in Australia is getting better. Water is fundamental to the survival of people and other organisms. Apart from drinking water, much of our economy (agriculture, in particular) relies on water. Furthermore, the condition of freshwater ecosystems has a critical impact on the wider environment.

Freshwater is a finite and scarce resource in many areas of Australia. Consumption of fresh water potentially depletes water storages in dams and reduces river flows, and can have an adverse effect on the environment and the economy. Moreover, some 80% of Australia is classified as semi-arid, making Australia the driest inhabited continent in the world (BoM 2010a). Not withstanding this, Australia has one of the world's highest levels of water consumption per head (OECD 2008).

Ideally a headline indicator for Australia's inland water systems would consider changes in the quantity of water, the quality of water and the health of Australia's inland water ecosystems, but such data are unavailable for much of the country. For this reason, there is no headline indicator for Australia's inland waters.

This commentary relies, instead, upon a range of supplementary measures to provide an indication of the quantity of water consumed in Australia, as well as the reuse of water and water used by the agriculture industry.

Water supply and use in Australia needs to be viewed in the context of Australia's climate. Therefore, further information is included about the amount of rainfall over time, as well as dam storage capacities and the use of household water conservation devices. These are included to provide more context around Australia's water use, and to illustrate the extent to which the climate and water use practices in Australia are contributing to the long term sustainability of water and water ecosystems.

For a full list of definitions, please see the Inland waters glossary.


  • Inland waters glossary
  • Inland waters references

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