Sections

Services

Information

US United States

Water

Analysis and Comment (61)

The Ord River dam, completed in 1971, formed Australia’s largest artificial lake in the far north west. The Ord River dam, completed in 1971, formed Australia’s largest artificial lake in the far north west. Graeme Churchard/Flickr

Dams are not the smart way to secure water for agriculture

Some 27 irrigation and dam projects are highlighted in the green paper for agricultural competitiveness released this week by agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce. Six of the projects – five in Tasmania…
Warragamba Dam, supplying drinking water to over four million residents of Sydney. Warragamba Dam, supplying drinking water to over four million residents of Sydney.

Axing water overseer could leave regional Australia high and dry

Summer is coming and, with it, dry conditions for many parts of Australia. While it may be difficult to imagine for city dwellers, parts of regional Australia will likely face severe water shortages over…
The once-popular Loch McNess north of Perth has dried up almost completely after a decades-long dry period. The once-popular Loch McNess north of Perth has dried up almost completely after a decades-long dry period. ron_n_beth/Flickr

Saving water in a drying climate: lessons from south-west Australia

Since 1970, average rainfall in the south-west of Western Australia has decreased by nearly a fifth, and the science suggests that this is linked to human-caused climate change. Across Australia, CSIRO…
A test mine for the Alpha Coal project in central Queensland, which appears likely to go ahead but with greater groundwater protections. A test mine for the Alpha Coal project in central Queensland, which appears likely to go ahead but with greater groundwater protections. AAP Image/Greenpeace, Andrew Quilty

Alpha Coal ruling breaks new ground for protecting water

This week’s court ruling on the future of the A$6.4 billion Alpha Coal project in Queensland – set to be one of the biggest coal mines in the world – is of major significance for how mining projects are…
One of Saturn’s many moons, Enceladus seems to have a large body of water hiding under its icy crust. One of Saturn’s many moons, Enceladus seems to have a large body of water hiding under its icy crust. NASA

Waterworld? Cassini spots the motion of Enceladus’s ocean

An ocean of water has been found underneath the icy crust of Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth largest moon, according to observations of the Cassini spacecraft published in Science today. This result has come…
Keeping the taps running for all. Keeping the taps running for all. Steve A Johnson/Flickr

UK is out of step with the rest of the world on access to water

A petition on the human right to water, signed by 1.8m people across Europe, was presented last month in Brussels. The petition called on the European Commission to recognise the UN resolution that water…
No water elsewhere could hit food and consumer good supplies here. No water elsewhere could hit food and consumer good supplies here. John Giles/PA

Believe it or not, Britain’s biggest problem is a water shortage

Following the wettest winter for 250 years, it would seem fair to assume that drought-induced food shortages are unlikely to be a problem for Britain. But in the near future we may find that water is a…
More than half of Australians say they recycle for mostly environmental reasons. More than half of Australians say they recycle for mostly environmental reasons. Shutterstock/spwidoff

Most Australians overestimate how ‘green’ they really are

Most Australians overestimate how much they are doing for the environment compared to others, and are more concerned about water shortages, pollution and household waste than climate change, a new CSIRO…
If the wells are dry, it doesn’t matter how many hands on the pumps. If the wells are dry, it doesn’t matter how many hands on the pumps. Kevin Frayer/AP

Water supply will struggle to meet demands of thirstier world

There are already many countries where the scarcity of water affects people’s lives. While water for drinking may be first to come to mind, as agriculture is the largest use of water worldwide water scarcity…
What toilet? In this refugee camp, children play in the holes dug for latrines. What toilet? In this refugee camp, children play in the holes dug for latrines. Oxfam International

Solving the toilet shortage needs a bottom-up approach

Why does one third of the world’s population have inadequate sanitation? Hopefully I can shed a bit of light on this. You see, my work is shit – literally – which is why I call myself a water, sanitation…
Rocky, water-rich asteroids and similar objects likely delivered the bulk of water on Earth. Now they’re being found well outside our Solar system. Rocky, water-rich asteroids and similar objects likely delivered the bulk of water on Earth. Now they’re being found well outside our Solar system. Mark A. Garlick, space-art.co.uk, University of Warwick and University of Cambridge

Watery asteroid gobbled up by a white dwarf: implications for life

How will future alien scientists know whether life existed in our solar system? One method may be to sift through the planetary debris left when our sun becomes a white dwarf. Astronomers are doing just…
Martin Parker

What if water had memory?

Homeopaths believe water has memory. That is how they explain the “medicinal properties” of their concoctions. Apparently people are treated even though the pill or potion may not contain a single molecule…
Social conventions stemming from the marketing of washing product companies means we wash our clothes more than we need to. Social conventions stemming from the marketing of washing product companies means we wash our clothes more than we need to. Jackson Boyle

The dirt on clothes: why washing less is more sustainable

If you’re worried about dressing ethically, chances are you think about sweatshop conditions in developing countries, unsustainable farming practices, convoluted global supply chains that ring up a huge…
Solving Western Australia’s water crisis has been an ongoing issue for Liberal and Labor state governments. Solving Western Australia’s water crisis has been an ongoing issue for Liberal and Labor state governments. Steven McGuinnity

WA’s water woes: a thirsty election issue

Ten years have passed since the 2005 Western Australian election, when the state’s battle lines were drawn over Perth’s water future. Geoff Gallop’s Labor party argued for desalination or the Southwest…
As any barramundi fisher will tell you, northern Australia’s water isn’t going to waste. As any barramundi fisher will tell you, northern Australia’s water isn’t going to waste. Justin Friend

Someone is already using northern Australia’s water: wildlife

With increasing pressure on Australia’s water resources, many have looked to northern Australia to provide water for agriculture, urban development and other human needs. Much of northern Australia is…
With so many interests vested in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, implementation will remain a challenge. With so many interests vested in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, implementation will remain a challenge. mike (away for a while)/Flickr

Basin Plan is historic but let’s not lose the whole story

Reaching agreement on a Murray-Darling Basin Plan is undoubtedly a significant political accomplishment. The water resources of the Murray-Darling have been the basis of disagreement between states, industries…
The Plan includes the eventual delivery of “up to” 3200 gigalitres of water to the environment. The Plan includes the eventual delivery of “up to” 3200 gigalitres of water to the environment. Jeremy Buckimham MLC/Flickr

Finally: Murray-Darling Basin Plan signed into law

Yesterday, Minister for the Environment Tony Burke signed the Murray-Darling Basin Plan into law, after the Murray-Darling Basin Authority had made the final changes he requested. One hurdle remains. The…
Fluoridated water protects against the tooth decay from acid produced by bacteria in the mouth. Fluoridated water protects against the tooth decay from acid produced by bacteria in the mouth. T. Faltings

How fluoride in water helps prevent tooth decay

The most effective way to prevent tooth decay is delivered to most Australian homes every day through their water pipes. It is, of course, fluoride distributed via the water supply. Dental decay occurs…
There will always be conflict over how water is used, but we seem to be getting closer to agreement. There will always be conflict over how water is used, but we seem to be getting closer to agreement. augustusoz/Flickr

Murray-Darling proposal brings us closer to shared understanding

Sharing water between different groups in society is almost inevitably a very contentious issue. Throughout the world, there are daily conflicts between people about how water can be used; at an individual…
Three years ago we discovered water on the moon, and now we’ve worked out where it’s from. Three years ago we discovered water on the moon, and now we’ve worked out where it’s from. Jason Bache

Blowin' in the (solar) wind: how the moon got its water

A study published in the journal Nature Geoscience last week suggests water on the moon may have come, at least in part, from the sun. Until a few years ago the orthodox view was that the moon was bone-dry…
Ever wonder why Australians spend half a billion dollars a year on something that comes from the tap? Ever wonder why Australians spend half a billion dollars a year on something that comes from the tap? slinky2000

An untapped resource: how water became the ultimate consumer product

Water is just water, right? To some, yes, but many consumers spend inordinate amounts of time considering which brand they should buy and are willing to pay many times more than the price of humble tap…
The Wonthaggi desalination plant was proposed as Victoria’s solution to water security, but has been the subject of community concern and protest. The Wonthaggi desalination plant was proposed as Victoria’s solution to water security, but has been the subject of community concern and protest. AAP/Thiess

Solving water security: don’t ignore the public

What is the best solution to the problem of water security in Australia? Finding an answer to this question is no easy matter. There is still much we don’t know about the nature and impact of climate change…
Time to get our eyes back on the prize: the pragmatic, results-focused, multi-sector research effort of recent decades has stalled. Time to get our eyes back on the prize: the pragmatic, results-focused, multi-sector research effort of recent decades has stalled.

Part two: running dry - the worrying repercussions of running down irrigation research

Welcome to Part Two of Professor Andrew Campbell’s special report on the troubling plight of irrigation research and development in Australia. In part one, Professor Campbell argued that despite an unprecedented…
The waters of the Kimberley in Western Australia have long tempted politicians and engineers wanting to make the drier southern regions bloom. The waters of the Kimberley in Western Australia have long tempted politicians and engineers wanting to make the drier southern regions bloom. Flickr/Koala:Bear

Western water dreamers rise again with Colin Barnett’s canal vision

Settler Australians have a long history of trying to harness the continent’s great rivers to water the dead heart of the country. Schemes such as those of Bradfield and Idriess in the 1930s and 1940s sought…
Efficient water use is ever more important, yet budgets for vital irrigation R&D are declining. Efficient water use is ever more important, yet budgets for vital irrigation R&D are declining. A. Campbell

Part One: Irrigation R&D drying up - a looming weakness for Australia

Welcome to a two-part special on the troubling plight of irrigation R&D, by Professor Andrew Campbell of Charles Darwin University. Research into the smartest, most efficient and sustainable ways to…
The price we pay for water should reflect what it costs to deliver. But does it? The price we pay for water should reflect what it costs to deliver. But does it? Bronwyn Quilliam

Manipulating water prices: why your bill is going up

The revelation that water users in Melbourne have been over-charged to the tune of $300 million highlights deficiencies in the mechanics of setting water prices in that state. Unfortunately, the flaws…
Liquid politics: fights over water will heat up unless its management is democratised. Liquid politics: fights over water will heat up unless its management is democratised. Flickr/Kyle Horner

Challenge 2: Water; a local resource, a global problem

Welcome to the State of the Future series. This series addresses 15 global challenges posed by the Millennium Project, an international non-profit think-tank collecting responses for 40 nodes worldwide…
Irrigation infrastructure, buy-backs, environmental flows, agricultural communities: lobbyists will say anything to win the Murray-Darling war of lies. Irrigation infrastructure, buy-backs, environmental flows, agricultural communities: lobbyists will say anything to win the Murray-Darling war of lies. Eco Images Pty Ltd

Lies, dam lies and water plans: the MDB Plan and the states

When the water planning process for the Murray-Darling Basin first commenced, an experienced colleague of mine noted that this was shaping up to be a lying contest between farmers and environmentalists…
A nice drop: we have the technology to recycle water to drinking quality, but have we the will? A nice drop: we have the technology to recycle water to drinking quality, but have we the will? Flickr/chantel beam photography

Recycled drinking water: what Australians need to know

Our conventional water supply system that continually captures and delivers water is under great strain because of an increase in population, rapid urbanisation, and drastic changes in climate and rainfall…
In Victoria, only 10 out of 463 usable gigalitres of stormwater is used per year. In Victoria, only 10 out of 463 usable gigalitres of stormwater is used per year. Chesapeake Bay Program

The drought strikes back: how decentralised water supplies will beat the next dry season

Over the past decade, Australians living in capital cities have dramatically reduced their consumption of water from centralised reservoir systems. This has been achieved through the installation of water…
Money isn’t the only way of measuring the Murray-Darling’s environmental benefits, but it’s a useful one. Money isn’t the only way of measuring the Murray-Darling’s environmental benefits, but it’s a useful one. CSIRO

Complex but rewarding: putting a value on the Murray-Darling plan

One of the big challenges around the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s Proposed Basin Plan is to work out just how much the basin’s environment would benefit from the plan. When the Guide to the proposed…
Almost 90% of the world now has access to drinking water, but there is still a long way to go. Almost 90% of the world now has access to drinking water, but there is still a long way to go. barefoot photographers of tilonia/flickr

Is this progress? Watering down the Millennium Development Goals

Did you hear about the latest success for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)? Don’t be ashamed to say no – most of the world missed it with you. So what happened? You’ll remember that the MDGs are…
A new national partnership agreement could allay a lot of CSG worries, if the states sign up. A new national partnership agreement could allay a lot of CSG worries, if the states sign up. kateausburn/Flickr

National coal seam gas agreement an important step in protecting water

A new national agreement designed to protect water resources from coal seam gas extraction and coal mining could offer a level of protection so far unseen in Australian environmental legislation. Any states…
We can’t tame the oceans, but modelling can help us better understand them. We can’t tame the oceans, but modelling can help us better understand them. Badruddeen

Super models – using maths to mitigate natural disasters

Last year will go on record as one of significant natural disasters both in Australia and overseas. Indeed, the flooding of the Brisbane River in January is still making news as the Queensland floods inquiry…
Northern Australia has a lot of water, but intensive agriculture may not be the best use for it. Northern Australia has a lot of water, but intensive agriculture may not be the best use for it. feral arts

Using northern Australia’s water, but avoiding the mistakes of the south

The millenium drought has broken in the south, but that hasn’t diminished interest in developing the seemingly vast water resources of northern Australia. The recent announcement of a multi-million dollar…
The science tells us what’s good for the environment; it’s up to others to decide the priorities. The science tells us what’s good for the environment; it’s up to others to decide the priorities. thinboyfatter

The science behind the Murray-Darling Basin plan

CSIRO, like many other research institutions, has helped provide research, models and data to inform the development of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. But the proposed Basin Plan, which was released on…
South Australian communities know what it’s like to live without water. South Australian communities know what it’s like to live without water. AAP

What happens when there’s no water? How the Murray-Darling plan might affect communities

When the Murray Darling Basin Authority commissioned me in 2011 to examine the social impacts on the Lower Murray and Lakes communities of low flows and drought, I was confronted with irrigation farmers…
We know water is important to environmental health, but a lot of the details are still fuzzy. We know water is important to environmental health, but a lot of the details are still fuzzy. wazzasworld

Will the Murray-Darling plan do enough for the environment? The truth is, we don’t know

The release of the Draft Murray-Darling Basin plan earlier today, and the announcement that 2,750 gigalitres would be returned to the environment, was followed by predictable outrage. Irrigators said that…
It doesn’t take much for sewage to break out of its pipes and into waterways. It doesn’t take much for sewage to break out of its pipes and into waterways. Claire Evans

Popping the pipe: how sewage gets out into the environment

Australia’s urban waterways are often polluted and sick. They suffer from a condition called the “urban stream syndrome”. A common factor that contributes is contamination from sewage. How and why does…
Understandably, farmers get worried when they think their water is under threat. Understandably, farmers get worried when they think their water is under threat. Phil Schubert

CSG conflict – we know what we don’t know, let’s do something about it

There are many good reasons why the general public, and in particular farmers, are concerned about coal seam gas (CSG) extraction. There are major gaps in our knowledge about the future impacts of CSG…
Water bursting from dams doesn’t just look impressive; it’s vital to the health of Australian rivers. Water bursting from dams doesn’t just look impressive; it’s vital to the health of Australian rivers. Kincuri

Rivers, rain and releases: what happens when you dam a waterway?

Water exploding from the Jindabyne Dam into the Snowy River made for compelling viewing in recent TV news reports. As well as being good TV, this water release highlighted the importance of releases in…
It could take years to learn more about the impacts of CSG, but can we afford to wait? It could take years to learn more about the impacts of CSG, but can we afford to wait? AAP/Alan Porritt

We need to know more about CSG and groundwater, but does Tony Windsor have it right?

Independent MP Tony Windsor has said he won’t back the government’s Mineral Resources Rent Tax unless more is done to make coal seam gas mining sustainable. He has called for $200-400 million annually…
Water, habitat and tourist dollars: the Alps provide it all. Water, habitat and tourist dollars: the Alps provide it all. Jane Rawson

We need our Alps, so why aren’t we looking after them?

The Australian Alps cover some 1.64 million hectares, 0.3% of the Australian continent. Included on the National Heritage register, they are of major environmental significance and home to rare and endangered…
In a changing climate, urban water planning needs to be more flexible. In a changing climate, urban water planning needs to be more flexible. Joe Castro/AAP

Water we waiting for? The unfinished business of water reform

The National Water Commission released its Third Biennial Assessment of the 2004 National Water Initiative (NWI) in September. The NWI is an agreement between all state and territory governments and federal…
Coal seam gas mining can create 5 million litres of “produced” water per well. Coal seam gas mining can create 5 million litres of “produced” water per well. Jeremy Buckingham MLC

National Water Commission calls for a closer look at fracking

Last week, the Federal Government’s National Water Commission (NWC) delivered its third biannual assessment of the national water initiative (NWI). And for the first time, the NWC is looking seriously…
Ocean acidification is most acute in the polar regions. Ocean acidification is most acute in the polar regions. Enzofloyd/flickr

Explainer: why ocean acidification is the ‘evil twin’ of climate change

Ocean acidification is often referred to as the “evil twin” of climate change. Greenhouse gasses are doing more than just warming the globe. Increasing C0₂ levels are also changing the chemical make-up…
Irrigators say they like the Windsor Inquiry, but are they looking after their own interests? Irrigators say they like the Windsor Inquiry, but are they looking after their own interests? AAP

Inquiry slams ‘Swiss cheese effect’ in the Murray-Darling Basin

The Windsor Inquiry has handed down its report on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. It recommends a halt to water buybacks, more investment in irrigation efficiency and a new governance model for the Basin…
Arguments over water in the Murray Darling are about profits, not life and death. Arguments over water in the Murray Darling are about profits, not life and death. jon gos/Flickr

Can the Murray Darling once again lead the world in water management?

Almost every major river basin in the world is significantly impacted by humans. The situation in the Murray Darling Basin (MDB) is certainly not unique. In river basins all over the world, communities…
A decision on the Murray-Darling is on the way, but will it be evidence based? A decision on the Murray-Darling is on the way, but will it be evidence based? AAP

What’s the science behind revised Murray-Darling environmental flows?

The past few days has shown that the issue of water reform in the Murray-Darling Basin is “back on the boil”. The current discussion is about what evidence is credible and how “evidence” is used to support…
Much coal seam gas water sits there going to waste. Much coal seam gas water sits there going to waste. SkyTruth/flickr

Making the most of coal seam gas can help slake our water thirst

The Coal Seam Gas (CSG) industry constitutes an interesting opportunity for Australia. We could get a lot of positive things out of CSG. But it does produce a lot of “waste water”: if things go badly there…
A missed opportunity to resuscitate our rivers. A missed opportunity to resuscitate our rivers. Flickr/wazzas world

A plea to think big: a vision for a budget beyond self-interest

A vision splendid of the sunlit plain extended? The federal budget acknowledges the profound impact of flood, fire and cyclones on our economy. It compensates, rebuilds and funds mental health programs…
Farmers are fired up, but it’s not as bad as they think. Farmers are fired up, but it’s not as bad as they think. AAP

Murray Darling Basin can feed the nation if we just get it right

Reports of the death of the Murray Darling Basin food bowl are grossly exaggerated, to borrow a phrase from Mark Twain. Farmers have been up in arms about plans to give more water to the environment, but…
Don’t panic: plan for water shortages early. Don’t panic: plan for water shortages early. AAP

Better water planning could avoid desalination

Apparently desalination plants are the answer to keeping Australian cities supplied with water. All that is required is to remove enough salt from an unlimited source of water to provide for each city’s…
Turning off the taps means we spend less, but is that bad? Turning off the taps means we spend less, but is that bad? Flickr/siette

Economists want water conservation to dry up

The Productivity Commission’s recent report on Australia’s urban water sector sets out the economic case for reform. One reform they suggest: remove water conservation measures. In Melbourne, most people…
It’s blue skies for some parts of the Basin, but others are left wanting. It’s blue skies for some parts of the Basin, but others are left wanting. AAP

Government myopic on Murray Darling’s complex needs

The controversy over the Murray Darling Basin Guide centres on the need to strike a balance between the social, economic and environmental uses of water. The difficulties in undertaking this task are most…

Research and News (3)

Research Briefs (37)

Seasonal flows on Mars could be salty water

Dark, finger-like features that appear and extend down some Martian slopes during the warmest months of the Mars year may…