While Australia is considered part of the developed world, the continent is facing a water crisis of its own. About 93 percent of households have access to municipal water, but the continent’s dry conditions and growing population are making water access more difficult than in previous years. As one of the driest landmasses on earth, Australia poses significant challenges for its more than 21 million inhabitants. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the continent receives an average of only 23.6 inches (600 millimeters) of rainfall each year. Some of the driest regions of Australia—those toward the South and middle of the continent—receive as little as 7.8 inches (200 millimeters) per year.
Droughts are not uncommon in Australia, and the regions that experience the most devastating economic impact from rain scarcity contain three-fourths of the continent’s entire population.
In the City of Perth alone, the average yearly rainfall has declined to 22.8 inches (656mm), 4.3 inches (110 mm) less than the average from 1990 to 1999.
To continue to provide clean water to its residents, Perth officials have had to take advantage of the area’s largest body of water—the Indian Ocean. Through the use of desalination plants, the city is able to produce drinkable water from the salt-laden sea. Because of energy concerns, however, scientists have also been exploring the viability of leveraging the Gnangara system, the city’s most significant source of groundwater, to filter and produce water for both drinking and irrigation.
As cities like Perth continue to research innovative ways to produce clean, accessible water in an undeniably dry region of the world, Australians understand that water is a critical resource that must be preserved.