Australia and China's management of its water resources in a time of global water scarcity By Isabella AShburn

Warragamba Dam in Australia

Australia is an arid country vulnerable to erratic droughts and the occasional flood. As a result of climate change there is a strong emphasis on water conservation and various states and territories have restrictions on water consumption in times of low rainfall. Australia's hot climate is due to its size and hot sinking air of the subtropical high pressure belt. This moves north and south with the seasons so that the rainfall pattern over the country is highly seasonal. Australia has one of the lowest rainfall levels of the seven continents and this places pressure on its water management and services.

China is rich in raw water resources and is among the top 6 countries in the world however only 2,100 m3 per capita of the water is available. This is because water resources are spread unevenly cross the county. Is very polluted and suffers from severe water shortages and pollution. China has a lax environmental oversight which has increased water demand and pollution.China’s climate is diverse and dominated by the monsoonal system that brings wet summers and dry winters. The temperature can very from cold to tropical and can bring rainfall across the country. Arid conditions persist in the north-west while the eastern region receives an average annual rainfall of between 500 mm and 1,500 mm. The 350 mm isohyet runs diagonally across the country from north-east to south-west. This marks the divide between predominantly rain sufficency for farming in the south and east and irrigated farming in the north and west. Irrigation consumes some 65 percent of all water withdrawals



Presently the Australian Government has made in-principal commitments to five priority projects pending proposals and funding from the states. These include; a new dam structure in NSW, Irrigation districts in Queensland and Victoria and water storage and transport projects in South Australia and Victoria. Dams and desalination plants are currently kept under strict management with the nation average water consumption rate increasing and the population due to rise to +5 million in the next few years. 80% of Sydney's water for example comes from Warragamba Dam and other small dams around the catchment areas. Desalination plants only make up of less then 10% of the cities water.Infrastructure is being planned for the future of Australia with main cities of Sydney and Melbourne so that everyone can be accommodated with the important resource of water. The future plan for 2025 is new wastewater treatment plants to service the remaining North West growth centre precincts. With over $150 billion assets and $15 billion in revenue urban water is a key part in Australian water plan. Due to the influx of a 5.9 million population is Sydney and more in Melbourne greenfield sites are being exploited for water treatment plants as the government and green groups search for an economic and environmental way to harvest more water sustainably.

Case Study Warragamba dam

Supplies 80% of Sydney’s water it has an aim to provide Sydney with high quality raw water for drinking and other uses. Some strategies in catchments reduce threats to water quality they include- on group activities, pest and week control, hazard burns, erosion control, monitoring. Education- of community and staff, farmers and other member of the rural community. Grants and funding- fencing, tree planting, pumps and troughs and erosion and control barriers. Warragamba dam has a structural central spillway to prevent flooding and this water comes from a 9000 square kilometre catchment area.

20th March

Governments of Australian states and territories, through state-owned companies, are in charge of service provision in Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory, while utilities owned by local governments provide services in parts of Queensland and Tasmania. In Victoria, New South Wales and Southeast Queensland, state-owned utilities provide bulk water which is then distributed by utilities owned by either local or state governments. The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities is responsible for water policies at the federal level.

Three gorges dam

In China present infrastructure includes, desalination technological abilities and plans to introduce extensive water conservation and recycling programs and technologies. Large scale water transfers have long been advocated and the The South-North Water Transfer Project is being developed primarily to divert water from the Yangtze River to the Yellow River and Beijing. By June 2010, there were 1,519 municipal wastewater treatment plants in China and 18 plants were added each week. Many existing plants are being expanded and upgraded to include a tertiary treatment stage for nutrient removal to comply with more stringent discharge standards introduced in 2002. Wastewater treatment is one of China’s modern urban infrastructure success stories. From 2000 to 2010, the number of wastewater treatment plants in China quadrupled (to about 1,700), while total treatment capacity increased five-fold (to 10,670 cubic meters per day), according to the PRC Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development. This reflects the central government’s strong commitment to preserve surface water quality. This major effort has not yet been enough: China’s rivers and lakes—unable to absorb the pollution load discharged into them daily—are increasingly polluted. The environmental disruption caused by water transfer schemes, increasing energy intensity of water treatment, and steadily declining water reserves will continue to undermine the sustainability of China’s water systems. China’s water industry will open up for reverse osmosis, membranes, and other advanced treatment technologies that minimize energy inputs and simplify operations. As local governments are expected to finance larger portions of their water infrastructure, foreign firms that are willing to invest debt and equity in treatment plants will become more welcome, By the end of 2015, the waste water treatment rate should increase to 100% for municipalities, provincial capital cities and cities specifically designated in the state plan, 85% for other cities, 70% for counties, and 30% for towns.

The Chinese Goverment founded organisations and plans to combat the growing need for fresh water. In 2009, the government established a water resources management strategy that recognised the importance of water to China’s future sustainable development and prosperity. The strategy recognised that water resources must be at the heart of sustainable economic and social development. It must serve the whole country and be managed using scientific, evidence based decision-making. It must improve people’s well-being, emphasise water allocation, conservation, and protection, and take full account of measures to control both water quantity and quality. It included many issues such as: Water licensing Paying water resources fees Controlling pollution discharges into water bodies Appraising and approving plans for constructing water projects Using innovation and reform as driving forces Building capacity as a basis for implementing stringent water resources management systems. Demand was overestimated, the construction of sewerage lagged behind the construction of treatment plants, designs were sometimes inappropriate, there was no requirement for pre-treatment of industrial effluents thus affecting the effectiveness of treatment processes, and the sites chosen for the first priority investments within a river basin were not always those where the highest impact could have been achieved in terms of improving river water quality. As a result, many plants are underutilized or poorly functioning. According to the Ministry of Construction, more than 50 wastewater treatment plants in more than 30 cities operated at only 30 percent of their capacity or did not even come into operation. Consequently, the impact of the investment program on the water quality in rivers and coastal waters has been limited.

Case Study- Three gorges Dam

Is currently the most prominent hydropower dam that crosses the Yangtze river in Centeral China. Set records for home displacement more than a million and towns flooded 13 cities 140 towns and over 600 km reservoir, It is deemed a model for disaster yet is it being replicated all over china. The environmental impacts are profound The submergence of hundreds of factories, mines and waste dumps, and the presence of massive industrial centres upstream are creating a festering bog of effluent, silt, industrial pollutants and rubbish in the reservoir. Erosion of the reservoir and downstream riverbanks is causing landslides, and threatening one of the world’s biggest fisheries in the East China Sea. The weight of the reservoir's water has many scientists concerned over reservoir-induced seismicity. Critics have also argued that the project may have exacerbated recent droughts by withholding critical water supply to downstream users and ecosystems, and through the creation of a microclimate by its giant reservoir. In 2011, China's highest government body for the first time officially acknowledged the "urgent problems" of the Three Gorges Dam.

Created By
Isabella Ashburn


@Copernicus Climate change service

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