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Water Account, Australia

The Water Account, Australia presents estimates of physical and monetary supply and use of water across the Australian economy

Reference period
2017 - 2018

Key statistics

  • Australian water consumption increased by 4%.
  • Australian water intensity increased by 1%.
  • Total industry water use increased by 7%.
  • Total household water use increased by 4%. 

Summary

Summary indicators

Australian water consumption and water intensity increased in 2017-18:

  • Water consumption increased by 4%;
  • Water intensity increased by 1%.
     
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In 2017-18, total water use in Australia decreased by 4% to 82,393,712 ML.

It should be noted that the Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services industries, specifically water used for hydroelectricity and by the Water Supply Sewerage and Drainage Services industry, drives total water use, most of which is returned to the environment or supplied to others through water distribution networks.

Other notable movements, excluding the Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services industries, were as follows:

  • Total water use increased by 6% to 15,194,733 ML.
  • Total industry water use increased by 7% to 13,388,181 ML.
  • Total household water use increased by 4% to 1,806,552 ML.
  • Total water use per capita increased by 5% to 0.61 ML per person.
  • Total household water use per household increased by 3% to 0.19 ML.
     
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Source(s): Bureau of Meteorology


Households spend much more than industry on distributed water, despite using a smaller volume.

In 2017-18:

  • For distributed water, expenditure by households was 63% of total expenditure.
  • For distributed water, households accounted for 15% of total volume.
  • Households paid $3.15 per kL.
  • Industry paid $0.33 per kL.

Water supply and use

Physical

Self-extracted water

In 2017-18, the total amount of water extracted from the environment was 70,300,410 ML. This was a decrease of 6% from the previous year.

Self-extracted water: Electricity and Gas Supply industry

The Electricity and Gas Supply industry (mostly hydroelectric energy generation) was the main driver behind total self-extracted water use:

  • In 2017-18 the Electricity and Gas Supply industry accounted for 76% of total self-extracted water use, or 53,643,604 ML.
  • This was a decrease of 9% from the previous year.
     
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  1. Accessible volume in the 305 major dam storages included on the Bureau of Meteorology Water Storages Dashboard.

Source(s): the Bureau of Meteorology Water Storages Dashboard


It should be noted that water used for hydroelectricity production is mostly returned to the environment. In 2017-18, 99% of self-extracted water used for hydroelectricity generation was returned to the environment.

Due to these return flows, the following figures exclude Electricity and Gas Supply:

  • The Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Services industry extracted 11,755,802 ML of water, of which:
     
    • 9,965,773 ML was supplied to industries - this includes own use and losses;
    • 1,790,029 ML was supplied to households.
       
  • The Agriculture industry extracted:
     
    • 3,381,388 ML of water from the environment;
    • 1,250,337 ML was used by Other Crop Growing;
    • 1,201,358 ML was used by Sheep, Beef Cattle and Grain Growing.
       
  • The Mining industry extracted:
     
    • 1,108,029 ML of water from the environment, accounting for 91% of total water use by Mining.
       
  • The Manufacturing industry extracted:
     
    • 297,905 ML of water from the environment, accounting for 54% of total water use by Manufacturing.
       

Distributed water

11,782,458 ML of distributed water was used in 2017-18, up 9% from 2016-17.
 
The Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Services industry supplied over 99% of distributed water.
 

Distributed water use is driven by demand from the Agriculture industry. Water demand by agriculture increases when rainfall declines. In 2017-18:

  • Rainfall declined by 26% percent across Australia.
  • Agricultural distributed water use increased by 10% to 7,327,059 ML.
     

Other key users of distributed water in 2017-18 were:

  • Households, using 1,801,464 ML.
  • Manufacturing, using 235,333 ML.
  • Mining, using 101,883 ML.
  • Electricity and Gas Supply, using 146,123 ML.
     
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  1. 2016-17, Electricity, Gas and Waste Services is not available for publication.
     

Reuse water

In 2017-18, the supply of reuse water decreased to 310,844 ML. The key user was:

  • Agriculture, using 96,930 ML.
     

Return flows

In 2017-18, the Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Services industry:

  • Released 1,755,376 ML of water to the environment,
  • Representing 90% of total wastewater collected.
     

Monetary

Distributed water

    In 2017-18, total expenditure on distributed water was $9.5 billion. Key contributors were:

    • Households, accounting for 60% at $5.7 billion.
    • Other industries, accounting for 21% at $2 billion.
    • Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, accounting for 6% at $583 million.
       
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    In 2017-18, expenditure on sewerage and wastewater services was $7.1 billion, a 4% increase from the previous year. Key contributors were:

    • Households’ expenditure was $5.8 billion.
    • Other industries’ expenditure was $1.0 billion.
    • Manufacturing expenditure was $209 million.
       

    Industry highlights: WSSDS

    In 2017-18, the Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Services (WSSDS) industry extracted 11,755,802 ML of water from the environment. This was an increase of 9% from 2016-17. This water was sourced from:

    • Surface water: 11,010,590 ML or 94% of the total.
    • Groundwater: 573,518 ML or 5% of the total.
    • Sea water for desalination: 171,693 ML or 1% of the total.
       
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    In 2017-18, the Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Services industry released 1,755,376 ML of water back into the environment, a decrease of 7% from 2016-17. These return flows were to:

    • Surface water: 368,778 ML or 21% of the total.
    • Groundwater: 26,831 ML or 2% of the total.
    • Sea (estuary or ocean): 1,359,768 ML or 77% of the total.
       
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    In 2017-18, the Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Services industry supplied 11,755,802 ML of distributed water;

    • 15% was supplied to households; and
    • 85% was supplied to industry;
    • this includes 1,513,512 ML of water losses, which accounted for 13% percent of total distributed water.
       

    The industry also supplied 269,677 ML of reuse water:

    • only 2% of reuse water was supplied to households; and
    • 98% was supplied to industry.

    Changes to this issue

    The 2017-18 Water Account, Australia (WAA) features a number of changes from previous editions. These changes were implemented to further align the account with the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) Water framework, modernise the processing system, adopt new data sources, and standardise processes across geographies.

    Methods

    The 2017-18 Water Account, Australia (WAA) publication has undergone a methodological review. The updated methodology has resulted in changes to the previously published estimates. For a summary of this methodology refer to the Methodology page.

    Terminology

    Regulated discharge has been re-defined as return flows, consistent with the System of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA) Water framework.

    Conceptual

    The conceptual underpinning of consumption has been aligned with the SEEA water framework.

    • Previous consumption equation:
      • (Self-extracted use + Distributed water use + Reuse water use) - (In-stream water use - Distributed water supplied to other users)
         
    • Current consumption equation: 
      • (Self-extracted use + Distributed water use + Reuse water use + Wastewater use) - (Distributed water supply + Reuse water supply + Wastewater supply + Return flows)
         

    Consumption is not included in the supply and use tables due to incomplete data in wastewater supply and return flows, however total economy consumption is included in the summary tables using the following equation.

    • Total economy consumption equation:
      • ​​​​​​​Total self-extracted use - total return flows supply
         

    Data cubes

    A flat file (.csv) is now included in the publication for easy data manipulation by users. It includes all physical and monetary supply and use tables.

    The following data cubes have been discontinued:

    • Experimental soil water estimates.
    • Industry highlight: Agriculture.
       

    Additional agricultural water use data can be sourced from the following publications:

    • Water Use on Australian Farms (cat. no. 4618.0).
    • Gross Value of Irrigated Agricultural Production (cat. no. 4610.0.55.008).
       

    Within all physical supply and use tables the following changes have been made:

    • Removal of the consumption column.
    • Inclusion of wastewater supply and use, with wastewater supply recorded as not available.
    • Removal of in-stream use as its own category. In-stream use is included in:
      • self-extracted use
      • return flows supply
    • Removal of self-extracted estimates for Households, Aquaculture, Forestry and Logging, and Fishing, Hunting and Trapping.
    • Removal of all estimates for Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing Support Services.
       

    Within the monetary supply and use tables the following changes have been made:

    • Removal of the rural and urban categories for water supply and use.
    • Inclusion of the distributed and reuse water categories for water supply and use.
       

    Inclusion of social benefits in kind as a distinct category.

    Data downloads

    Table 1. Summary table

    Table 2. Physical water supply and use, by water type, Australia

    Table 3. Physical supply and use, by water type, New South Wales

    Table 4. Physical supply and use, by water type, Victoria

    Table 5. Physical supply and use, by water type, Queensland

    Table 6. Physical supply and use, by water type, South Australia

    Table 7. Physical supply and use, by water type, Western Australia

    Table 8. Physical supply and use, by water type, Tasmania

    Table 9. Physical supply and use, by water type, Northern Territory

    Table 10. Physical supply and use, by water type, Australian Capital Territory

    Table 11. Monetary supply and use, by industry and water type, Australia (purchasers' prices)

    Table 12. Industry highlight: water supply, sewerage and drainage

    Table 13. Physical water supply and use, by water type, Australia and state/territory (.csv file)

    Table 14. Monetary supply and use, by industry and water type, Australia and state/territory (purchasers' prices) (.csv file)