Earlier this year, the Productivity Commission (PC) released an alarming report warning that Australia’s cities face chronic water shortages in the decades ahead as their populations swell by a projected 11 million people:
Looking ahead, climate change and population growth present significant risks to the security of Australia’s water resources. Drought conditions are likely to become more frequent, severe and prolonged in some regions. Higher anticipated demand from a growing population, alongside reductions in supply, will increase water scarcity and put further pressure on all users (including the environment)…
Australian cities have been growing rapidly and are expected to continue to grow in the long term… By 2050 an additional 11 million people are expected to live in capital cities, and almost half (45 per cent) of all Australians will live in Sydney and Melbourne (up from 41 per cent in 2019) (ABS 2018, 2019c). Notably — with the exception of Darwin — all of Australia’s capital cities are located in southern or eastern parts of Australia, which are regions likely to see future declines in water availability as the climate changes.
In major cities where readily-available supply sources have already been accessed, ongoing population growth is likely to create significant pressure on water supplies. Major supply augmentations will often be needed. Scenarios developed for Melbourne, for example, include a worst case of demand outstripping supply by around 2028…
According to a draft strategy on Sydney’s future water supply, Greater Sydney will need up to 70 gigalitres more water in 20 years time if it continues to grow at its present rate. The strategy forecasts that Sydney could be looking at a 13% shortfall in its water supply if its rate of growth is maintained and climate change makes rainfall less predictable. Increased desalination is one way by which Sydney could make up the predicted shortfall:
“A secure water supply is vital and this plan ensures we are able to support economic growth as we recover from the pandemic and set the foundations for the future,” the state’s water minister, Melinda Pavey said.
“We need to plan now for how our growing city and region will use water wisely as Sydney’s population is set to grow to 7.1 million by 2041. During the most recent drought, our dam levels depleted faster than we’ve experienced since records began – at a rate of 20% per year”.
The mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ policy guarantees chronic water shortages in the future.
Treasury’s latest Intergenerational Report (IGR) projects that Australia’s population will grow by a whopping 13.1 million people (~50%) over the next 40 years to 38.8 million people. This is equivalent to adding another Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Australia’s existing population.
The driver of this population surge will be extreme immigration, which is projected to increase to 235,000 annually from 2025-26 onwards versus 215,000 per year in the 2015 IGR:
The additional 13.1 million people will obviously create a massive increase in water demand at the same time as supply is reduced via lower rainfall and rising evapotranspiration rates from climate change.
Put simply, the ‘Big Australia’ mass immigration policy is a fundamental threat to Australia’s water security.
The best thing that policy makers could do to safeguard Australia’s water security is not reboot mass immigration once the pandemic has passed.