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Where our water goes

Preventing an Australian water crisis

Water covers 70 per cent of our planet, but less than 2 per cent of it is fresh and accessible.
In Australia, the situation is even more serious, with over a third of our continent classified as a desert.
With growing populations consuming limited supplies, we are in danger of water stress.
To try stop this from happening, National Geographic explorer Adam Ferguson is finding out where our water goes, and how we can help save it.


As earth’s driest inhabited continent, with one of the most variable rainfalls in the world, Australia needs to be mindful of its water supply. However, Australia is the world’s third largest consumer of fresh water, using an average 100,000 liters per person per year.

At every level, from federal government through to individual households, more effective water management is crucial if Australia is to avoid increased water stress on its cities, towns, and many isolated rural communities.

Northen Territory
Darwin is Australia’s wettest capital with 1,729mm of rainfall a year—three times that of Adelaide (530mm).
Brisbane’s dams can store 2,220,150 ML of water for dry periods—around one million liters per resident when full.
Southern Australia
Coober Pedy is known for being Australia’s driest town with just 21.6 days of rainfall a year and a mean average rainfall of under 160mm.
New South Wales
In 2019, Sydney’s desalination plant could stave off severe restrictions by producing 15% of the city’s drinking water.
Southern Australia
Adelaide relies heavily on groundwater, desalination, and water transfer from the diminishing Murray River.
Melbourne’s goal is to reduce average water use to 155 liters per person per day—they have achieved 161 liters.
17 new water treatment plants have ended Tasmania’s boil water alerts making its tap water safe to drink.
Western Australia
In the last 50 years, annual water flow into Perth’s dams fell from 300 billion liters to just 25 billion liters.
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Video & Article

The town that ran out of water

National Geographic photographer Adam Ferguson visits Murrurundi to find out how water habit changes replenished the town’s dwindling, one-week supply.


Making every drop count

Receiving the second least rainfall per year in the world, Australia’s finding new ways to conserve it’s precious freshwater supply. But have they done enough to secure their water future?

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Where Water Goes

Australians use an average 340 liters of water every day, with domestic use in homes and gardens accounting for around 14% of Australia’s water footprint. A lot of this water is wasted unnecessarily which is why it is crucial that we all know where our water goes.

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Ways to save water

Knowing where we waste water can inspire us to take positive action. There are many things that each and every one of us can do to reduce our water consumption and the actions we take as individuals can make a big difference. Collectively we need to reduce our water consumption to reduce the threat of severe water stress.

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An efficient dual flush toilet uses just 4.5 liters full flush or 3 liters half flush, saving around 35,000 liters per household a year

A modern water efficient shower head uses just 9 liters per minute, saving 20,000 liters per person per year

Switching from top loader to front loader saves up to 70% water, saving around 36,000 liters per household per year

A dishwasher uses just 12 liters per full load, saving over 100 liters per day against handwashing in a sink

Taps fitted with flow-controlled aerators use 8 liters or less water per minute, saving as much as 300,000 liters per household a year

Installing a drip irrigator uses just 4 liters per hour, saving as much as 996 liters per hour



Freshwater Crisis

There is the same amount of freshwater on earth as there always has been, but the population has exploded, leaving the world's water resources in crisis.

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