Water blueprint to take Australia's regional communities into the future
The importance and essential nature of water is universally recognised - we can all recite the fact that one typically can't survive longer than three days without drinking it, and access to clean water is a typical measure of a country's living standard.
Yet it's also something we routinely take for granted, especially given the future pressures that it faces. Population growth and climate change, not to mention the demands of agriculture and urbanisation, will provide daunting challenges to water as a resource, particularly for owners of rural property.
Droughts, water-borne disease and floods all have the potential to dramatically disrupt the lives of rural home owners, while the increasingly limited nature of water as a resource poses a dilemma for agricultural operations. It is just as well, then, that the Australian government is meeting this challenge head on.
Government launches water "Blueprint"
Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt launched the Blueprint for Regional Water Productivity on June 11, aiming to situate Australia as "a world leader in water resource management", according to a University of Melbourne media release.
The blueprint is the work of the Carlton Connect Initiative, a collaborative project that aims to offer solutions to sustainability challenges. It was headed by the Melbourne School of Engineering's Professor Peter Scale, and combines ideas from more than 240 farmers, policy makers, industry representatives and others around the country.
While the blueprint praises Australia for its sophisticated water management policies, it also notes that improvements to the existing water sector are needed. One issue highlighted by the blueprint is that of effectively utilising water on hand to help boost the industries that most depend on it, such as tourism and mining.
It also stresses the need to ensure a more efficient use of water to aid regional communities. Regional Australia is often more greatly affected by changes in water availability than highly urbanised areas.
Australians stand to benefit from changes
The blueprint posits that the more efficient water use it has outlined has the potential to drive growth in agricultural productivity. An increase in water efficiency of 25 per cent over the next decade is estimated to raise the value of irrigated agricultural production by more than $4.7 billion over the next 20 years, according to the report.
Along with this, smarter use of water could reduce the incidences or severity of drought in regional communities, which would not only improve lives but save money in drought assistance. Residents in regional and rural areas could thus see a variety of benefits if the blueprint is taken on board.