Thirsty Country: Options for Australia

Thirsty Country: Options for Australia

Thirsty Country: Options for Australia

Thirsty Country: Options for Australia

Excerpt

Turning on a tap and filling a glass or a kettle with water is such an ordinary, everyday act. But that water is as old as life itself. It could have carved the Grand Canyon, passed through the kidneys of a dinosaur, been an iceberg for a million years, or fallen as rain ten years ago.

We drink water without thinking about it, but to take a sip of water can still be a fatal act in the developing world. Here in Australia, modern technology renders it safe enough to give to a baby. That ordinary glass of water is an everyday miracle. At around a dollar a tonne, it is also an unparalleled bargain. This is one of the great paradoxes of Australian water: in the driest inhabited country, in the midst of a great water shortage, water is free. The money we pay our water authorities is for cleaning the water, for supplying it and for delivering it. The stuff itself is free—unless you decide to buy it in little plastic bottles.

This leads to paradox number two: fill a one litre bottle of water from the tap, and it will cost you less than 0.1 cent. Buy a litre at the supermarket and it will cost over one dollar, more than one thousand times the cost of the tap water. Yet that is what a growing number of people are doing.

Drought and climate change have forced Australians to realise we cannot take our water for granted. We have traditionally relied on dams for our water supply. But dam building in this country has virtually . . .

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