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Water crisis looms for nation: reports
By KERRY TAYLOR Saturday 17 March 2001
More than a quarter of all Australia's rivers and creeks are being pushed to the brink due to an increasing demand for water, a new report reveals. And, according to another report, about 200 towns across the country will suffer from the salinity scourge by 2050.
National audits of dryland salinity and water resources released yesterday found Australia's rivers were under pressure. The water audit found that more than 26per cent of rivers, streams and creeks had too much water extracted from them, while about 34 per cent of Aust-ralia's groundwater was also being overused.
The report on salinity predicted that more than 20,000 kilometres of streams would be significantly affected by salt by 2050.
Each year Australians use enough fresh water to fill Sydney Harbor 48 times, most of which comes from rivers, streams and other surface water, the water report said.
On average, Australians' water use increased more than 65per cent from the early 1980s to the present. This was mostly due to growth in irrigated agriculture, which accounts for more than three-quarters of the nation's water usage. New South Wales and Queensland accounted for the greatest increase in water use.
Over half the water used in Australia comes from the 26per cent of sources - mainly in southern Australia - that are being used beyond sustainable levels.
The water resources audit also revealed that salinity was a significant water quality issue in southern Australia. It affected river basins in most of the south-east and south-west, and in southern Murray-Darling drainage divisions.
The dryland salinity assessment - the details of which were revealed in The Age this month - also painted a grim picture. It predicted that more than 17million hectares would be ravaged by salt by mid-century.
"Biodiversity, as well as regional and urban infrastructure such as water supply, roads and buildings are now also at risk," the salinity audit said.
House foundations, sewerage pipes, footpaths and roads in 219 towns are expected to be salt-ravaged within 50 years.
The reports, compiled by the National Land and Water Resources Audit, prompted Tom Park, chief executive of Southcorp, Australia's largest wine company, to call on business to help reduce the pressure on water and soil resources.
The reports also found:
More than 70,000 kilometres of road will be damaged by salinity within 50 years.
Salinity-affected farmland will equal an area double the size of Tasmania by 2050.
Water use has grown to 23,300gigalitres from 14,600 gigalitres since 1983.
More than 20 per cent of water diverted for use never arrives because of evaporation and seepage.
This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/news/2001/03/17/FFXP3E6RCKC.html
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 16, 2001