Australian cities look for water down under

Dwindling supplies are forcing several Australian cities to consider tapping into the aquifer beneath their feet to meet the growing demand for water.

While much of the developed world is suffering from water shortages on an unprecedented scale, the situation in many of Australia’s built up coastal regions is reaching crisis point.

This week Sydney has scrapped plans for an enormously expensive – and energy hungry – desalination plant in favour of tapping into the aquifer under the New South Wales’ Southern Highlands.

The aquifer in the hilly territory is though to hold 23,000 billon litres of water and official estimates consider it sustainable to draw off 220 billion litres a year, enough to meet one third of Sydney’s current water demands.

Now Brisbane is set to follow suit and plans to drill boreholes across the city to make up the shortfall in its water supply.

The city’s wet season is almost at an end and its main reservoirs are full to less than a third of their capacity.

Raiding the aquifer for water can be likened to dipping into your savings and is not without its risks – the potential danger has already gone beyond the theoretical in Australia.

Perth pumps some 60% of its water from the local aquifer, a habit which needed abrupt rethinking in 2003 when the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority warned that the practice was slowly emptying the supply of groundwater.

By that stage there had already been an impact on biodiversity in the area and efforts to repair the damage and refill the aquifer continue.

By Sam Bond

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