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Real Business : Issue 3 2008
“Water accounting underpins just about every aspect of the NWI, which is why the National Water Commission has made water accounting a major reform priority and why it impacts almost every aspect of the commis- sion’s work. The commission has previously found that water accounting in Australia is at an immature phase and being developed in an ad hoc fashion.” As a result, the NWC is contributing $5 million towards the National Water Accounting Model, expected to be completed in 2010. This is in addition to three major national projects to assist in measuring Australia’s water, including the Australian Water Resources 2005 project; $10 million in funding towards the Australian Water Resources Information System; as well as funding for the CSIRO’s Murray-Darling Basin Sustainable Yields Project. Beyond Australia, international projects such as the development of the Lower Colorado River Accounting System in the US and trans-border accounts for the Orange River Basin in Southern Africa highlight the global importance of water reform. “Australia is at the forefront of world water accounting,” Chalmers says. “Promoting water accounting and building capacity in this area will improve decisions involving economic, social and environmental assessments of water policies, water management, water allocations and water delivery.” In terms of the big picture, the results speak for themselves – a new depth of information for government, investors and the public that should be as crystal clear as the resource itself. According to Godfrey, the outlook is good: “With good water accounting, much more information about water will be reported, so that water users, including the public, will be better able to discern hyperbole from fact. “Good water accounting facilitates assessments of the economic, environmental and social impacts of water policies. Misapproriators of water will be held accountable, and better public policy outcomes should be achievable.” ¦ Wetwisdom Of all the water in the world, only 3 per cent is fresh. Less than one-third of 1 per cent of this fresh water is available for human use. The rest is frozen in glaciers or polar ice caps, or is deep within the earth, beyond our reach. Rice and cotton are two of the planet’s most water-intensive crops, using 12.4 and 6.7 megalitres per hectare respectively. Grazing tips the balance at 3.9 megalitres per hectare. On average, each Australian consumes around 100,000 litres of fresh water per year. 1.8 million children die every year as a result of diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation. This is about 5000 deaths a day. Australia is the driest populated continent on earth (with an average annual rainfall of 469 mm per year), but is the greatest consumer of water per person. The Aral Sea, (located in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan), the fourth-largest inland sea, will cease to exist within the next decade, as its waters are rapidly being used up for farming. Somewhere between 70 and 75 per cent of the earth’s surface is covered with water. NET GAINS For all things water related, log onto www.worldwater.org REAL BUSINESS ISSUE 3, 2008 29 PHOTOLIBRARY
Issue 1 2009