Australia Banks Water for the Future

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Australia has been doing some work recently to prepare for possible water shortages in coming years. We know parts of Australia go through a serious dry season and drought can significantly affect water levels for farming, personal, and commercial use. As years go by and global warming continues to become a greater risk, this problem is expected to have increased consequences.

With these concerns becoming more and more pressing, the country is exploring the use of aquifers (groundwater deposits) as a new storage option. These have been used in other locations, but Australia hopes to develop these systems on a large scale. There may be great costs associated with creating these subterranean banks of water, but a significant advantage is in the reduced evaporation levels that cause about a third of water to be lost on the surface. Below is an excerpt from an article on the issue:

“Historically Australians have relied on dams to provide water for agriculture and cities,” Ross [researcher at the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT)] says. “This strategy is not sufficient to cope with increasing climate variability or droughts as demand for food and water grows.  Water banking can help ensure that there is enough water both for food production and the environment in the MDB – rather than having to close down irrigation when drought hits.”

“Water banking augments the natural processes of water storage in the landscape, avoiding evaporative losses.   In the MDB up to 3000 gigalitres (GL or billion litres) of water a year evaporates from surface water storages.”

“We are already storing about 45GL of water underground in the Burdekin region of Queensland every year – for use in agriculture and horticulture.  In Orange County California they store around 300 GL a year – enough for the annual household use of 2.3 million people. This gives an idea of the potential,” he explains.

“The known capacity of aquifers to store additional water below Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne could meet the needs of 2.5 million people per year– and may be far larger. Water banking thus offers a way to ‘waterproof’ Australia’s major urban centres for decades to come, ensuring water is available to support predicted population growth,” Ross adds.

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