Environmental Science
articles by Will Kemp

Water and irrigation in Australia


Fresh water is an essential resource for human life, and ensuring we have a sustainable supply is of critical importance. Global water use tripled during the second half of last century – mainly due to increasing agricultural demands – and the world’s population continues to rise. If we do not address the issue of water sustainability, there will be a big increase in the number of water-stressed people over the next few decades (Hayashi et al 2013).

Australia is the driest inhabited continent (Smith 1998) and we are highly dependent on dams and irrigation systems to maintain our standard of living. However, damming rivers has had a disastrous effect on downstream ecosystems and irrigation has caused a considerable amount of sailinisation (Kingsford 2000, Connor et al 2012). Climate in Australia is very variable and global climate change means conditions are likely to get more extreme. Well targeted research and policy is essential if agricultural production is going to survive into the future (Wei et al 2011). Read the rest of this entry »

Cairns water – from the source to the sea


Cairns is a coastal city in tropical Far North Queensland. The local authority, Cairns Regional Council (CRC), serves an area of 4129 km2 and a population of approximately 165,000 – which has increased by 37,000 since 2002 (CRC, 2013). CRC owns and operates the town water supply systems in the urban parts of its area. Raw water is extracted from 15 locations and is stored in 76 reservoirs after treatment. The main population area – Cairns city and suburbs – is supplied from Copperlode Falls Dam and Behana Creek (CRC, n.d.).

Copperlode Dam has a capacity of 37GL and a maximum extraction flow of 123ML/day. Water extraction is entirely gravity fed (Reimann, D., pers. comm., July 23, 2013). The water from Copperlode Dam and Behana Creek is treated at CRC’s Tunnel Hill water treatment plant (CRC, n.d.). After treatment and supply to the reticulation system, water samples from a number of points is tested for quality once a week by CRC’s Water Testing Laboratory (Wuth, M., pers. comm, July 23 2013).

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Great Barrier Reef water quality


The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) stretches for more than 2000km (Bowen & Bowen, 2002). It consists of approximately 3000 individual reefs, covers an area of 345,000km2, and is the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world (De’Ath et al., 2012). The GBR was listed as a World Heritage area in 1981 because of its “outstanding universal value”, which met all four of the World Heritage natural criteria, which were:

“to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;

“to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features; Read the rest of this entry »