National outlook highlights impact on water resources

Posted 26 October 2006

The National Water Commission has released a national seasonal water outlook report showing the impact that drought conditions are having on our water resources.

'This outlook provides a snapshot of how water resources across Australia have been, and continue to be, affected by ongoing dry conditions,' Chairman of the National Water Commission, Ken Matthews said.

The report-released by the Commission and prepared in conjunction with the Bureau of Meteorology, Bureau of Rural Sciences, the CSIRO and Murray Darling Basin Commission, with input from the Water Services Association of Australia-also indicates that Australia is unlikely to see drought breaking rain before next year.

'During the past decade we have witnessed record warm temperatures over large parts of Australia including almost all of the Murray-Darling Basin. Through the same period, demand for water has continued to grow and there has been pressure on water availability in urban and rural areas,' Mr Matthews said.

'When rainfall reduces and temperature rises, runoff is also reduced and as a result water storages across most of southern Australia and coastal Queensland are at very low levels. Many of Australia's major dam catchments are in the areas worst affected by a succession of disappointing seasons.

'Areas of highest impact include major storages such as Wivenhoe in southeast Queensland and Wimmera Mallee in central Victoria which have received no substantial inflow for six years. The Murray Darling basin system has had a series of seven failed autumn breaks which has never been previously recorded.'

Prolonged periods of poor rainfall have had a significant effect on our cities as well as rural areas relying on rain for crops and irrigated agriculture.

Harsh water restrictions which include complete bans on the outdoor use of water are already in place in Goulburn, Bendigo and Toowoomba and Sydney has had a ban on sprinklers for three years.

Mr Matthews said that the current situation and outlook made reform of water management more important and urgent than ever. 'The National Water Initiative continues to be our best bet for a more secure water future for Australia,' he said.

'For example water trading-being able to buy or sell water-provides an option for farmers to adapt to the tough current conditions. There are also exciting technologies available such as recycling and stormwater harvesting and Australia ought to be leading the way in adopting these new technologies.'

The Commission's seasonal outlook report is available from www.nwc.gov.au/publications/index.cfm.

Media contact:
Kim Ulrick, Manager NWC Communications 02 6102 6023 / 0412 786 945

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