21 July 2010 – Australia’s growing population and the effects of climate change are expected to drive an exponential increase in water consumption according to a new report released by the Water Services Association of Australia.

By 2026, major Australian cities will face a 39 per cent increase in water demand to 600 billion litres annually, with Australia’s population predicted to increase by 21.5 million people in the next 50 years.

The report details projections prepared by the Australian Bureau of Statistics relating to population growth and water consumption. The ABS provide population projections out to 2056 using three series of data – Series A (high), Series B (medium) and Series C (low).

Some key points of the report include:

  • Using 2007 as a baseline the ABS predicts that by 2056, using Series A, Australia’s population will be 45.5 million (a 102 per cent increase), Series B projection is 35.5 million (a 69 per cent increase) and Series C projection is 31 million (a 47 per cent increase). Following expert advice, WSAA believes that Series B or Series C are the most plausible outcomes but Series A analysis has been included to demonstrate the impacts of an aggressive increase in population growth on urban water resources.
  • The analysis shows that from 2009 to 2026, total urban water consumed is projected to increase by 49 per cent (Series A), 42 per cent (Series B) and 39 per cent (Series C). The projected gap between the volume of water supplied in 2008/09 and the increased volume of water consumed is 735 Giga Litres (Series A), 631GL (Series B) and 581GL (Series C).
  • Not surprisingly the analysis out to 2056 shows a much larger water demand. Series A, which is considered the most aggressive and least plausible of the ABS population projections, results in additional demand of 1612GL in 2056, which is more than double the volume of water consumed by the major capital cities in 2008–09.
  • Series B, which is considered the most plausible population projection, results in additional demand of 1147GL in 2056, which represents a 76 percent increase in the water consumed in the major capital cities in 2008–09.
  • Series C, results in the lowest additional demand of 961GL in 2056, which still represents a 64 percent increase in the volume of water consumed by the major capital cities compared to 2008–09.
  • Per capita consumption for most capital cities is projected to increase or remain stable from 2009 to 2026. Capital cities such as Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra have reduced their current per capita consumption to such exceptionally low levels as a result of the imposition of water restrictions and water consumption targets (under 60 Kilo Litres per capita per annum/165 litres per capita per day) that per capita consumption is projected to increase as restrictions are lifted.
  • Only Perth shows a significant projected decrease in per capita consumption from 2009 to 2026. This is due to the proposals in the 50 year plan recently released by Water Corporation for Perth and surrounds ‘Water Forever towards Climate Resilience’ which contains a range of water efficiency measures to reduce per capita water consumption by 25 per cent by 2060.
  • From 2026 to 2056, all capital cities are projected to decrease per capita consumption or maintain 2026 levels due particularly to efficiency gains made through water efficient appliances and the expected trend to increased density living.
  • From 2009 to 2026, total urban water consumed is projected to increase by 49 per cent (Series A), 42 per cent (Series B) and 39 per cent (Series C). The projected gap between the volume of water supplied in 2008/09 and the increased volume of water consumed is 737GL (Series A), 631GL (Series B) and 581GL (Series C).