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Australia’s Water Use and the Effect on River Systems

Australias Water Use and the Effect on River SystemsAustralian households do not necessarily consume the most water. The largest use of Australia’s water resources is irrigation and agricultural purposes, however this ultimately serves the best interests of households who are then able to buy quality food at a good price to put on their table.

One might think therefore households can’t make much difference in helping preserve Australia’s rivers and environment. That is absolutely not true! Households still consume a lot of water, and this is set to dramatically increase with our ever growing population.

The Effect of Dams on River Systems

Consider that households installing rainwater tanks reduce load on existing mains water supply, and thereby reduce the need for building new dams by harvesting rain and storm water. The need for reduction is here or approaching, despite the relatively high water level in most Australian dams today. It wasn’t long ago dams were nearly empty and they can quickly run dry once again.

It is reported that Australia has the highest per capita water storage capacity in the world, with most being held in a few very large dams. The ten largest dams comprise about half the total capacity of Australia’s water, much of which is used in irrigation. This has resulted in many Australian river systems suffering from substantial reductions in the volume of river flows and altered flow patterns.

These changes in the flow of water through rivers damage plant and animal communities that rely upon rivers for their food and habitat. River health is also affected by increased salinity, blue-green algae outbreaks and turbidity. These problems all occur naturally, but are exacerbated by human activities that alter the river flow and water quality. For example,

  • excessive nutrients introduced to rivers contribute to severe algal bloom outbreaks.
  • irrigation and clearing for agriculture worsen salinity on land and inland waters, as well as turbidity and sedimentation in waterways.
  • water quality is also reduced through the removal of the surrounding vegetation and the bank stability provided by root systems alongside water ways.

Dams can also affect natural phenomenon such as rains and storms due to evaporation, and through this, they can affect climate changes. So, if more and more households become water independent and begin relying more and more on rainwater instead of mains water, this will result in a reduction on the load of existing dams and erase the need for new dams.

Murray-Darling Basin

With the depletion of rivers and other fresh water resources, it is important for all Australians to take ownership and responsibility. Consider the Murray River, or more specifically the Murray-Darling Basin, for example.

The Basin extends over more than half of Victoria, more than two thirds of New South Wales, and the whole of the Australian Capital Territory and over significant portions of South Australia and Queensland, and supports a number of major water storages, large dams, and many farm dams.

The Basin provides over 70% of the total water used for agriculture in Australia, and supports half of the cropland, half of the nation’s sheep flock and a quarter of the nation’s cattle herd. Its water is also used to generate electricity, for manufacturing, mining and households.

A study conducted by Australian Water Resources in 2005 showed that 10% of the river length in the Basin was significantly impaired, more than 95% of the river length had a degraded environmental condition, all catchments and reaches had modified water quality and disturbed catchments, and many parts of the Basin were subject to severe stresses such as modified hydrology, poor water quality, land use changes, damaged vegetation and ecosystems.

To help protect Australia’s natural water sources and rivers intact, all Australians united together can help. You can do your part by installing a water tank to harvest rainwater and storm water. In the process, you stand to make some savings over time, especially as water becomes more valuable and expensive. Clark Tanks are a long-standing and experienced water tank manufacturer, known and trusted in the country for reliability. Contact us for a high-quality tank at a competitive price.