This paper provides an overview of water availability in Australia, the major sources of water, and the spatial and time challenges limiting access to water resources.
Australia is recognised as the world’s driest inhabited continent; with access to just over one per cent of global freshwater resources. In addition, the variability in water availability across the continent is considerable. Despite limited freshwater resources, most Australians have ready access to water and one of the highest per capita usage rates in the world. This, however, does not reflect the variability in water access across the country.
While rainfall in the tropical north is high for short periods of the year, the high demand areas in the south-east and south-west do not have access to that water. Groundwater, surface water and rainfall vary greatly from region to region and population growth and climate change are expected to make these disparities more pronounced. It is critical that the variability of Australia’s water resources is acknowledged; generalisations about the state of Australia’s water security nationally must be avoided, to ensure policy measures are designed for local conditions.