Long running drought conditions across Australia have been relieved thanks to rain and added desalination capacity yet the country has been warned to prepare for water scarcity again in as little as five years.
A new report, The State of the Water Sector 2012 by the Australian Water Association (AWA) and Deloitte was based on a survey of around 2,000 members of Australia’s water industry and highlighted a move towards securing the long-term sustainability of a healthy water industry.
The joint report revealed the industry’s top five concerns in 2012 to be:
1. Managing and augmenting infrastructure
2. Ensuring water supplies are secure
3. Managing catchments effectively
4. Reducing the skills shortage in the water sector
5. Responding to community concerns over rising costs
Australian Water Association chief executive, Tom Mollenkopf, said the drought-breaking rain across most of the east coast of the country has led many respondents to refocus their attention on asset management and system maintenance. However there was a strong expectation that water security would resurface as the most important issue in five years’ time.
“Ensuring the security of water supplies (36%) and managing catchments effectively (29%) are important priorities for many in the industry, reflecting the recent memory of critical and persistent drought in the east and continuing dry weather in the west,” he said.
The survey also identified community concerns over pricing as a key issue for industry, with 69% of respondents believing water prices are about right or too low while only 22% believe they are too high.
“Some of the concerns over the price of water has stemmed from some very significant investments over the past five years, including the construction of desalination plants. It is concerning, that 67% of those surveyed believe investment in desalination has been "not very or not at all cost-effective".
However, delving deeper into this issue, a majority (59%) said the construction of desalination plants was timely, but almost half of that majority (29%) also felt the plants were also too large or costly,” Mollenkopf said.