Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Are We Ready for the Next Drought?

By Craig Simmons

After two La Niña summers, our level of concern about water security is inversely proportional to the water levels in our dams.

Professor Craig Simmons is Director of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training at Flinders University.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

We’ve seen in the past 10 years or so that we are known as “a land of drought and flooding rains” for good reason. Over the first decade of this century, south-eastern Australia experienced its worst drought for 100 years. The reservoirs were emptying, there was daily press coverage and desalination plants began springing up across the country. And when you couldn’t water your garden every day, it felt real.

Australia has made great strides recently in water research and management, and in implementing world-leading policy. During the drought we gave ourselves a massive boost forward in this respect, but I’m concerned that we’re beginning to lose momentum. We have entered the apathetic part of the “hydro-illogical” cycle.

Now that it’s raining again, we’ve quickly gone back to business as usual. The average Australian uses over 300 litres of water per day just by turning on the tap. Around the home, we are one of the biggest water users in the world. On top of that we use enormous amounts of “hidden” water in the foods and products we consume. Our daily per capita water footprint may be more than ten times what we use around the house.

As for groundwater, here in Australia we can think of it as buried treasure, and a key part of our lifeblood. It makes up 17% of our available fresh water and 30% of our total water use. In some cities and regions, such...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.