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Publications archive - International Activities and Commitments


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Cover of Australia's water reforms - WSSD 2002 fact sheet

Australia's water reforms

WSSD 2002 fact sheet
Environment Australia, August 2002

PDF file

About the fact sheet

As the driest continent after Antarctica, Australia must use its limited water resources wisely. Water reforms aim to achieve the sustainable use of Australia's water resources for the long term.

Australians consume more than 24,000 gigalitres of water a year. More than 70 per cent of this is used for irrigation while a further 21 per cent goes to urban and industrial uses. The rest is used in other rural activities.

Water is crucial to Australia's natural and economic wealth. It is the basis of one of our largest industries, accounting for about A$90 billion of infrastructure investment and contributing over A$7 billion to annual revenues through irrigated agricultural production (about 25 per cent of Australia's agricultural production).

Many of Australia's rivers have highly variable flows. Droughts and floods are common. The flow variations have led us to extensively develop our rivers and groundwater resources for irrigated agriculture and domestic water supplies. Indeed, our rivers and groundwater resources were vital in Australia's early settlement and development, often determining the location and viability of population centres and areas of agricultural production.

However, inefficient water use has created problems of national significance, such as salinity in rivers and soil.