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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 3

I Background

II Early European Settlements

III Assessment Of Available Water Resources

IV Water Supplies For Goldmining Development

V Irrigation Development

VI Farm And Stock Water Supplies

VII Urban Water Supplies

VIII Wastewater Management And Treatment

IX Water Quality Management

X Limnological And Water Quality Research

XI New Techniques In Water Resource Planning And Management

XII Legislation

XIII Conclusion

XIV List Of Abbreviations

XV Acknowledgements

XVI Plantations-high Productivity Resources



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Chapter 3 - Water and Irrigation

This chapter does not purport to present a comprehensive history of the development of the water industry in Australia from 1788 onwards. That would be a major enterprise and would result in a very large publication, because the development of this continent has been inextricably linked with the availability of water, whether it was for urban settlements, rural growth or industry.

Today's average Australian tends to take for granted that we enjoy, overall, one of the highest standards of water supply in the world, both as to quality and quantity, given the low average rainfall for most of the country, the scarcity of large rivers, the sheer size of the nation and the relatively small population of our urban settlements.

Our per capita consumption of water is one of the largest in the world, much of it used on European-style domestic gardens ill-suited to the arid climate of most of Australia. We have a high usage on irrigation in proportion to our total water resources with, until recently, little attempt to improve the efficiency of water application. Australians become aware of their fortunate situation only when there are shortages of water in the occasional inevitable droughts. These shortages are seldom as severe as those experienced in many other countries, but they are always followed by demands for more water insurance, irrespective of cost. Such demands have usually been met in the past by the construction of new storages and other major works.

We have also been fortunate to have been provided in most major cities with comprehensive and effective systems for the collection and treatment of wastewater from a relatively early period of our development.

These systems were installed progressively, largely on the initiative of far-sighted water managers, with political support, and the costs were accepted without argument by most ratepayers. In recent times, however, with rapidly escalating expenditure required on major improvements and upgrading of treatment facilities, it has become necessary to involve the end-user more actively in consultation and consideration of new schemes prior to their implementation.

The growing shortage of capital for major developmental works of this kind and the increasing competition for the public dollar from other public sector fields such as education, health, transport and social welfare have also contributed to the need to continually review and re-assess priorities for public spending. This, incidentally, is a strong inducement for the local development of relatively low-cost techniques in the water industry, of the kind presented later in this chapter.

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© 1988 Print Edition page 151, Online Edition 2000
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