Water security must be front and centre of immigration debate

Earlier this week I questioned why climate change activists and environmentalists refuse to question the planned reboot of the mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ policy, which will place increasing strain on Australia’s natural environment and make meeting the nation’s “zero net” emissions commitments by 2050 and impossible goal:

While Australia’s emissions depend on many factors – including our energy use patterns, exports, and how we live – nobody can deny the fact that Australia’s high population growth (immigration) policy will make it next to impossible to meet our targets nor safeguard Australia’s environment.

Population multiplied by units of consumption equals total environment impact. It’s not rocket science. Yet population growth is rarely questioned by environmentalists…

Environmental groups need to stop the hypocrisy and confront Australia’s population addiction head on, since it is a direct driver of our environmental malaise.

Sadly, their cognitive dissonance and concerns of being labelled ‘racist’ or ‘xenophobic’ means that extreme immigration-driven population growth is rarely questioned. This has given the growth lobby free rein to direct policy makers as they see fit.

The very same arguments can be levelled at Australia’s water security, which will be placed under increasing strain as Australia’s population swells by a projected 13.1 million people (a 50% increase) over the next 40 years on the back of extreme immigration levels of 235,000 people a year (charts from the Intergenerational Report):

A veritable conga-line of reports released over recent years have warned that Australia faces chronic water shortages as its population swells.

For example, the Productivity Commission in March warned that the projected 11 million population increase across Australia’s cities “present significant risks to the security of Australia’s water resources”:

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…

A draft strategy on Sydney’s future water supply, released last month, warned that 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”.

In 2018, Dr Jonathan Sobels – a senior research fellow at the University of South Australia and the author of a key 2010 report prepared for the Department of Immigration (quoted below) warned that Australia’s water security is being placed at risk from endless mass immigration:

…We are coming up towards physical limitations within our physical, built and natural environments that will lead to compromises in the quality of our life…

Not only are the dams not filling, but the ground water supplies are not filling. The only option you have open to you is water efficiency use and whacking up desal plants. But if your population keeps increasing at the rates we have seen in recent times, you won’t be able to afford putting up billion dollar desal plants, which also have their environmental impacts…

The same 2010 report prepared for the Department of Immigration, entitled Long-term physical implications of net overseas migration: Australia in 2050, warned that high net overseas migration will guarantee water supply problems:

Decreased urban water supply is a significant environmental constraint exacerbated by higher levels of NOM.  Modelling shows the vulnerability of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to deficits in water supply, on a NOM strategy of 260,000 pa.: a view strongly supported by empirical review of State Government reports…

Only NOM levels of 50,000 pa or less result in Melbourne and Sydney maintaining a small surplus of net surface supply over demand on average out to 2050, assuming current climate conditions persist. Potential options to alleviate water stress at high NOM levels over the longer term may be hard to find.

Water experts quoted by ABC News in 2018 warned that even desalination plants will be an unrealistic solution as Sydney’s population shifts west away from the ocean:

In Sydney, when Warragamba dam is full, the city has about four years worth of water supply.

Double the population, as is forecast in 50 years, and that falls to two years worth of water supply — and that is only when it is full, a scenario that might become a lot less frequent with climate change.

But that is what desalination plants are for, right? Well … only to a point.

In Sydney, most of the 725,000 new dwellings that will need to be built by 2036 to keep pace with population growth will be built in the west, according to the Greater Sydney Commission.

The compass direction changes, but the trend is the same for all coastal capital cities: population growth is moving away from the coast and away from desalination plants.

“Water being non-compressible and quite a heavy substance — it’s quite expensive to transport,” said Mr Lovell.

“Even if you’re looking at Sydney on the coast through to Penrith or from Wonthaggi to the north of Melbourne — you’re looking at 80 to 90 kilometres. That’s really expensive, and it’s a really inefficient way to transport water.”

In Sydney, for instance, infrastructure is only in place to pump desalinated water from the plant in Kurnell to the CBD and eastern suburbs.

Professor Khan said a whole new set of pipelines would need to be built to get desalinated water west of there, where the population growth will be.

“The further you (pump desalinated water) inland, the more you’re working in a direction that is opposite to the way our water supply systems are designed and operate,” he said.

“They pump water from the source — up in the reservoirs, up in the hills — to the coast. And it’s very difficult to actually turn that around.”

It is not impossible for these pipelines to be built to the west, but it will cost a lot of money.

Of course, desalination plants are environmentally destructive and hideously expensive, with costs borne by the incumbent population, as noted by The Conversation:

The desalination plants were expensive to build, consume vast quantities of electricity and are very expensive to run. They remain costly to maintain, even if they do not supply desalinated water. All residents pay higher water rates as a result of their existence.

So while it is possible to boost water supplies via technologies like desalination and recycling, these solutions are far more expensive than traditional water storages:

High cost of new water supplies

Accordingly, household water bills will rise dramatically, which will adversely impact lower income households in particular.

In fact, modelling by Infrastructure Australia in 2017 projected that household water bills would more than quadruple in real terms because of population growth and climate change, rising from $1,226 in 2017 to $6,000 in 2067. The report also warned that “the impact of these changes on household affordability could be substantial… and could lead to significant hardship”:

The problems around water is another example of how running a mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ policy wrecks living standards of the working class.

The additional 13.1 million additional people projected by the Intergenerational Report will massively increase Australia’s water demand at the same time as supply is reduced from lower rainfall and rising evapotranspiration rates due to climate change.

Therefore, the best and cheapest thing our policy makers can do to safeguard the nation’s water supplies is ensure that immigration does not return to its manic pre-COVID level, nor is raised to the insane levels demanded by Ponzi Perrottet and the business lobbies.

It’s time to cut through the bullshit: Australia’s mass immigration policy is the key threat to Australia’s water security.

Unconventional Economist


  1. Well done UE!! One wonders what goes on in the mind of a Perrottet. It has got me beat. Is it a religious thing like a cult?

      • It’s pure greed an a bit of psychopathy. Like the billionaire who is never quite satisfied with the wealth they’ve accumulated, in general (but not always), those who seek political and social power discount the possibility of Armageddon, and think that technology will solve all problems that they create.

        • However they don’t seem to realise that the problems they are helping to create are wicked problems (look it up) and are therefore difficult or impossible to solve.

  2. desmodromicMEMBER

    It is probably too late to turn this around. Every time the landscape burns the catchments shed less water of lower quality. Logging exacerbates the problem by drying out the forests and increasing the likelihood that they will burn. The population ponzi needs housing, housing needs timber, and we aren’t about to stop. Neither are we about to stop exporting water as cotton, rice or beef as Barnaby’s mates demand privileged access to a public resource. A return of conditions as we experienced in 2019/20 and we are cooked! There is little understanding and no plan to meet the coming crisis.

  3. This is interesting (at least I didn’t know about it):

    Sustainable Population Australia (SPA)

    “SPA is an independent not-for-profit organisation seeking to protect the environment and our quality of life by ending population growth in Australia and globally, while rejecting racism and involuntary population control. SPA is an environmental advocacy organisation, not a political party.”


    Patrons include Bob Carr and Tim Flannery

    • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

      Flannery …sustainable pop….9 to 12m max.

      The left ignore his position on this, while running with his position on CC.

    • “don’t let the property developers decide our future – let’s rethink big Australia”

      “Sustainable Population Australia believes that now is the perfect time to rethink the Big Australia vision – promoted by the growth lobby – that is at the root of Australia’s unprecedented high immigration experiment. With a federal election around the corner and vaccination rates finally rising toward a future reopening of our states, it is time to decide whether we want the ‘new normal’ to include a return to high population growth and whether we are still happy for big business interests to be calling the shots on Australia’s population future. We believe it is time for ordinary Australians to send a message to their elected representatives that they emphatically want a stable and sustainable population future, rather than perpetual growth.”



  4. Bravo!
    This issue needs to be kept front and center.
    Dam levels might be relatively high at the moment due to recent rainfall; but, this is just a temporary reprieve and cannot he expected to last.

  5. To adapt the earlier MB headline, “How will the driest continent meet net zero with 50% more people?

    Don’t hold your breath for Katharine Murphy to ask Essential Poll this rude question, or Phil Coorey to ask it of Scott Morrison. Instead, let’s keep everything in its totally separate silos, and continue the fake climate change “debate”.

  6. Even StevenMEMBER

    Yes, at some point this will turn into a water crisis (if it’s not already). Then all the finger pointing will start. But it will be too late.

  7. Totes BeWokeMEMBER

    ..”In Sydney, for instance, infrastructure is only in place to pump desalinated water from the plant in Kurnell to the CBD and eastern suburbs….Professor Khan said a whole new set of pipelines would need to be built to get desalinated water west of there, where the population growth will be”…

    That’s ridiculous. Sydney is near flat until the mountains. Warragamba isn’t at all high. The whole Sydney basin is flat and desal plants could provide more and more to that with mostly existing infrastructure, while Warragamba could supply the new developments.

    Water-prices rising will diminish usage too, and we’ll also recycle effluent. Sydney has a whole llllloooonnnngggg way before water is an issue. Yeah, for sure the poor will go without water, while the rich take long showers, but that’s not a concern for LNP, Labor, the ABC and MSM.

    • The longer water has to be pumped from the ocean, the more expensive it is.

      “Sydney has a whole llllloooonnnngggg way before water is an issue”.

      It was an issue two years ago when Sydney’s water supply fell to dangerously low levels. But yeah, no worries. We’ll just import millions more people. She’ll be right.

      • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

        Water won’t be an issue for a long time because the poor will use less of it as prices rise, we’ll recycle, and add more desal plants (and diminish other services to pay for it).

        My argument isn’t about bringing more people in. My argument is we’ll put up with anything from our grubby politicians, and it is the poor and middle class Labor voters copping it in the neck.

        Bottom line is, population growth equals diminished lifestyles for everyone but the rich.

        Attacking Labor is THE ONLY way this can change.

    • I get your point but you’re kind of assuming that pipe diameters (and numbers of distribution pipes) are the same in the eastern suburbs as they are way out west. and that’s just not the case.
      Think of it as a water distribution system originally deigned with a point source Warragamba Dam and a distributed use network (everyone’s houses and businesses). Now hook up one of those distribution feeds to a Desal and try to pump the whole system in reverse. Yes you can probably get a little water through but nothing like what’s needed to meet the needs of Sydney’s thirsty western suburbs.
      If you dug up all the main distribution pipes in the Eastern suburbs and inner west and replaced these with the same number and size of pipes that you see leaving Warragamba dam than the system could probably be made to run in reverse, but at what cost? From a logistics perspective these water pipes would need to be tunneled for most of the distance and we all know how expensive tunneling in Sydney is.

      • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

        There is enormous infrastructure in Sydney Water. Reservoirs everywhere. You’d only need to get water from the desal to the reservoir in densely populated suburbs to bring in millions more people, shove em in western Sydney. Charge everyone more, so they don’t consume what the people in the east have the money to pay for.

        More people means diminishing lifestyles for everyone but the rich. That what’s unfolding. That is what we’re voting for in everything including water consumption.

        Sydney will also soon have recycled water (can’t imagine Labor voters complaining about that getting much traction), that of course won’t flow to the elites.

  8. This article brings to mind all those notes placed in Hotel bathrooms asking patrons to re-use their bath towels in order to save water..
    So after the pandemic we need a couple of good droughts to drive home the anti population ponzi point.

    • Problem is we’re in a la Nina event and we’re much wetter on the east coast than usual this year. Recency bias means everyone thinks it’s gonna be like this for ever

      • Mining BoganMEMBER

        Yep. Look at Batemans Bay. Before the fires it had six months of water left. Then the fires.

        Prices have doubled since then.


  9. I would be very wary of that table sourced to Alan Moran (who was an IPA economist shill who was even thrown out of the IPA :).
    For other reasons, I did a pre-feasibility study of water resources in Gippsland that covered most of the storages he refers to. Our answers were quite different to his. He has ignored the environmental issues, demand from agriculture and La Trobe valley industry and the (high costs) of pumping water long distances (much further than the desal plant).

    If you look at the reasons for the de-sal plant, you may find it was big business who demanded it in the face of imminent water shortages in the early 2000’s. It probably was the idea of Liberal voters. Nats politicians were not going to allow damming of Gippsland rivers for Melb water. Remember the stink over the Goulburn pipeline which was the emergency back-up if the desal plant did not get into gear fast enough.

    Despite Orisis’s aversion to it, highly treated wastewater is the obvious source of additional water. It is good enough for SA and the many cities along Europe’s major rivers. Let the market determine water demand through pricing. (although the water/sewerage payment systems put little weight on actual usage 🙁

  10. Totes BeWokeMEMBER

    To lift one mega litre, 1 metre, uses 9.81MJ of energy (2.7 KWh).

    200 litres consumption per person, per day, 73000 litres a year.

    To lift 73000 litres 20m consumes 4kwh (plus a tiny bit of friction and other efficiency losses)

    About $1 per person per year.

    Cost of pumping water should be ignored when it comes to a big Australia.

  11. when it’s a choice between the ‘brown man’ mass immigration program and the environment … the ‘brown man’ ideology always wins.

  12. It’s not just water provision it’s also sewerage costs. Where you take a dump in Sydney matters because of where it travels to be processed.

    Sydney Water has a line where those dropping the kids off at the pool east of the line it goes to be processed by basic primary treatment and then put through the deep ocean outfalls (DOO) – primarily Malabar, but also North Head and Bondi. This is the cheapest outcome for Sydney Water.

    If you pinch a loaf west of this line it goes through to Wallacia / Richmond / Eastern Creek where it goes through primary, secondary AND tertiary processing. If we keep building suburbs out west we will spend much, much more on the water AND their sewerage.

    This will be the same for other cities. It’s not just drinking water but the other associated infrastructure like sewerage is more expensive the further away from the coast you are.

    • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

      There’s treatment plants all over the place. Glenfield, Liverpool, Fairfield. The solids are digested (fking heaps of methane we never hear Labor and Greens discuss), and the fluids flow to Bondi and Malabar. There’s a heap of capacity in the system. That’s even before using the option of retaining it, then letting it flow overnight.

      Ditto fresh water. There’s heaps of capacity just by filling reservoirs overnight.

      Nothing stopping them running the sole desal plant all year and pumping it into reservoirs now, while letting the dam fill. As far as I know it’s not running which just goes to show how much reserve capacity we have. Despite the fear generated by MSM.

      ATM, water, sewage and sewerage are not limiting factors in populating Sydney.

      AND we’ll be recycling water soon; only in the poor areas of course.

  13. It’s time to cut through the bullshit: Australia’s mass immigration policy (exponential human population growth on finite real estate) is the key threat to Australia’s future prosperity & long-term sustainability

  14. Sub-optimal analysis, why? Ignores the impact of Big ag and mining on water resources, management of the MDBA and the environmental impacts and bad urban water management e.g. grey water flushes drains and then goes to the sea, while in Vic most new homes must have a water tank etc.

    Further, what scientific expertise does SPA have to claim, without any correlation, that ‘immigrants’ are a threat to water security? And the rest…..

  15. Technology exists today that can treat industrial and household wastewater to a level which can be safely discharged into the environment. We’ve plenty of water, we just have to be a little more clever how we use it. And no, it’s not expensive. Dig a little deeper people, it’s out there, you just haven’t found it yet.