Our water practices over the past 200 years have brought many of our waterways to their knees. Help restore our rivers, lakes and estuaries.
Over the last 200 years, our land clearing, unsustainable water usage and certain farming, industrial and business practices have contributed to the degradation of the health of our waterways. Signs of this decline include the loss of biodiversity; toxic algal blooms; declining water quality; increased salinity and sedimentation. This affects the health of more than 1,000 estuaries around our coast. The most potent example is the estuary at the mouth of the Murray, our greatest river system, being blocked from the ocean. This has come about because we have extracted too much water from the system.
There are many things we can do to increase our understanding and help heal our rivers, lakes and estuaries.
How to do it now!
1. Demand that adequate environmental flows are restored to all Australian rivers.
A UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education report on the global trade in embedded water in agricultural products (2005) [PDF] found that Australia has an annual net loss of 57,000 billion litres of water. This means that Australia's net trade in agricultural products incurs a water loss of more than twice the water that we capture annually in our dams and catchments.
Drought and water shortages are exacerbated by the poor management of our natural resources and we all have a responsibility to support responsible water management. Australia's annual water loss figures do not include our non-agricultural water deficit resulting from wood, paper and aluminium exports.
Voice your concern by writing to your state MP or the Minister for Water.
2. Join a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) and add your voice to their lobbying activities. NGOs concerned about waterways issues include:
3. Include 'river restoration' in your assessment of who to vote for in the upcoming elections.
4. Join a community river action group to replant, clean up and protect your local waterway.
The best place to start is to find local groups working on your local waterway. So Google your local river, lake, estuary or creek with 'friends of' or 're-vegetation of' etc, meet the local experts and find your way.
National organisations involved in regeneration of the land also specialise in river and estuary regeneration projects. Try:
5. Local Councils. Many local councils hold volunteer based community groups which are great opportunities to help your local environment and meet likeminded neighbours.
Why is this action important?
Fresh water is the lifeblood of nature. Without it, we would not have clean air, food, drink and many aesthetic and recreational benefits. Therefore, we need to ensure we use water in a sustainable way. We need to share it with all life on the planet and respect and value this lifeblood. The consequences of doing otherwise can be seen in the spreading deserts across the world and the drought and famine that can soon follow.
Almost every river and wetland system in Australia is under stress from human withdrawal of water. River red gums, fish breeding stocks and the estuary systems at the end of these rivers are dying. The human need for water is continuing to expand in the face of this silent death of our rivers. This action moves us toward being as efficient with our water use as nature is. A tall order indeed.
Clean fresh water from the tap is, for most people in the world, a luxury. As the Australian water supply is stretched, recycled and sterilised at the expense of stagnated rivers, we expose ourselves to toxic algae, chemically treated water and an increased vulnerability to severe drought. Many people across the globe suffer from a lack of cleanwater and associated diseases kill tens of millions of children each year. So use water wisely and conserve this precious resource.