Conference paper

Air pollution and water problems in Australia’s urban environments: merging science and environmental management

Air quality Water Environmental management Environmental science Pollution Australia
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This paper focuses on two major environmental problems in Australian cities, air pollution and water, and discusses possible management strategies. The air pollutants of most concern are photochemical smog and fine particle pollution. The major urban airsheds, located on coastal plains backed by low mountain ranges, re- circulate air pollutants within local and regional air flows. Air emissions inventories identify transport emissions as the most significant source of air pollution. Oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds, from motor vehicle exhaust, combine with sunlight, high temperatures, clear skies and light winds to create high ozone levels, particularly in summer. Fine particulates from various burning processes create pollution problems in winter. Health studies link photochemical smog and fine particle pollution events with increased mortality in the major urban centers. Water problems are created by drought, increasing pressures on water sources by expanding populations, and concern about water quality.

New air quality management plans for the major urban centres merge the best available science with consultative strategy development, monitoring and review. These plans incorporate community involvement in decision-making and a partnership approach to implementation. A range of cost-effective actions target similar priorities. Integration of urban and transport planning, new vehicle emission standards, new fuel quality standards, and alternative fuels, target the reduction of transport-related emissions. New regulations on solid fuel burning for domestic heating, agriculture, and forest and bushfire management target reductions in particle pollution. Economic incentives target reductions in major industrial emissions. Water use management is focussed on recycling of “grey” water collected from urban residential rooftops and stored in tanks. A change in approach by state authorities and local councils is beginning to recognise that recycled water can used for everything except drinking, and has the potential to overcome major water availability problems in urban areas.

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