Unprecedented investment in Western Australia’s economic productivity at the start of the 21stcentury brought a surge in water demand to support development.
Over the past 30 years in Western Australia, average annual water use has grown about 2.8 per cent per year in total – including urban water use (by 1.6 per cent per year), agriculture (1.9 per cent), heavy industry (3.6 per cent) and mining (6.9 per cent).
In the state’s capital, seawater desalination plants, established since 2006, now account for almost half of Perth’s scheme water supply. Desalination has been critical to offsetting declining dam levels due to climate change, and in reducing the pressure on groundwater.
In 2016, the Australian Water Outlook reported industry in Western Australia as being the most concerned in Australia about water shortages – further underlining the need for greater awareness about the state’s water demand and supply situation, as well as for the development of long-term strategies for building water security.
A shared understanding of Western Australia’s future water needs would provide government and the private sector with time to innovate and adapt to the best water source options.
Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) Principal Water Planner, Daniel Ferguson, says that DWER’s ‘unique’ Water Supply Demand Model (WSDM) provides relevant, transparent and credible information on Western Australia’s current and future water demand and available supplies, which enables more purposeful communication and engagement with key stakeholders.
‘Modelling future water supplies and demand supports government and industry to undertake coordinated, long-term water supply planning for the sustainable development across Western Australia,’ says Ferguson.
‘This planning helps to identify potential shortfalls in groundwater and surface water so demand management and alternative, cost-effective water supplies can be determined ahead of time.
‘To support planning for the estimated growth of the Perth and Peel region to 3.5 million people by 2050, and to adapt to the continued impacts of climate change, the WSDM modelling shows that increased water use efficiency and alternative water supplies will be required for sustainable, livable and productive communities.
‘Understanding scenarios for Western Australia’s future water demand and supplies also supports a risk-based approach to the water resources investigations, allocation planning, licensing, and compliance activities that underpin sustainable water resources management by the state government.’