Australia is a land of extremes in relation to water, with a relative abundance in the tropical north and a relatively scarcity in the temperate south, central arid and semi-arid zones. Further variability is attributed to seasonal wet/dry annual climatic cycles, the more extended El Niño and La Niña oceanic patterns, and the effects of climate change.
Over two-thirds of Australia is arid or semi-arid, with numerous temporary streams, fresh and saline lakes, and relatively few large semi-permanent rivers. The high variability in surface water resources is somewhat buffered by the more stable contributions of groundwater in parts of the continent, supporting groundwater dependent ecosystems as well as contributing almost one third of Australia’s water supply.
The quality and quantity of surface and groundwater resources are a focal point across much of Australia. Balancing the multiple uses of fresh water is a continuous challenge for all stakeholders, as is protecting the quality of this resource. Surface water and groundwater quality decline introduces a serious threat to human health, ecosystems, stock, food and fibre production, industry, recreational opportunities, and cultural and spiritual values.
The quality, integrity and function of surface water and groundwater resources must be retained.