Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, 1799
You have to love water. Water is, without doubt, the most incredible substance we know. All life depends on it.
Our bodies are mostly made up of water (ranging from 77% for newborns, to 65% for a grown man, to 58% for a grown woman and 50% for the elderly).
Humans are not really much more than big hairy bags of salty water.
Water delivers oxygen and nutrients around our body, removes waste and toxins and regulates body temperature. We float across water for transport and travel. It is the key ingredient for nuclear and coal-fired power plants. We use it daily to cook, wash and clean.
Water can take the form of liquid (water), solid (ice) or gas (steam and vapour). Fresh water is clearly the most precious resource on earth. We have become so used to it that we have come to take it for granted.
Though water covers almost three quarters of the Earth’s surface, we can only drink 1% of it – just a tiny sliver scattered on this earth that supports us all.
With such a small and increasingly scarce supply of water available, what is happening to our supplies in Australia? Well, according to CSIRO our water resources are likely to be further stressed due to projected growth in demand and climate-driven changes in supply. This will affect irrigation, our economy, our natural world, industry and environmental river flows.
A decrease in annual rainfall with higher evaporation leads to a decrease in run-off into rivers – an expected decline of 10–45% by 2030 in most Australian catchments. Average river flow is likely to drop by 3–11% by 2020, and 7–35% by 2050.
Droughts are likely to become more frequent and more severe, with increased fire risk affecting water yield and quality in fire-affected catchments. A 10–40% reduction in snow cover is likely by 2020.
Australian households (although we have improved) are pretty average at conserving water – the great news is that there is plenty of room for improvement.