Human use of water – for consumption, household use, agriculture and industry – is one of the major pressures on Australia’s water resources (see the Urban chapter). The main uses for which water is abstracted in Australia are agricultural (70%), urban (20%) and industrial (10%) purposes (ABS 2020). Total water abstractions for consumptive use over the period 2013 to 2020 were the highest in 2013–14 and the lowest in 2019–20 (Figure 37), following the trends of agricultural water abstractions. The water abstractions for urban users varied between 3,050 gigalitres (GL) and 3,900 GL; they were lowest in 2014–15 as a result of a drop in water availability arising from dry conditions. The proportion of total water sourced by agricultural, urban and industrial uses also varies between years. The proportion of water abstracted for agricultural purposes was the highest in 2014–15 (73%) and the lowest in 2019–20 (68%). In contrast, urban and industrial proportions were the highest in 2019–20 (21% and 11%, respectively) and the lowest in 2014–15 (18% and 9%, respectively) (BOM 2021c). Figure 37 Water abstractions for agriculture, urban and industrial uses, 2013–14 to 2019–20 Expand View Figure 37 Water abstractions for agriculture, urban and industrial uses, 2013–14 to 2019–20 GL = gigalitre Source: BOM (2021c) Download Go to data.gov Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link The continuing dry conditions from 2018 to 2020 saw not only a decrease in water abstracted but also a change in the source of water; less water came from surface-water sources, and more came from groundwater and desalinated water (Figure 38). Figure 38 Water taken, by source, 2016–17 to 2019–20 Expand View Figure 38 Water taken, by source, 2016–17 to 2019–20 Sources: BOM (2018c), BOM (2019c), BOM (2020d), BOM (2021c) Download Go to data.gov Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Water stress Water is essential for human activity and the healthy functioning of ecosystems. Global freshwater supplies are increasingly under pressure as water requirements increase steadily with population growth, economic development and changes in consumption patterns due to improved living standards. To establish whether fresh water is meeting the basic needs of humans and economic development, several indicators have been developed over the past few decades to assess the relationship between water availability and water use. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicator 6.4.2 was developed by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations to compare estimates of the sustainability of water use across the world. SDG indicator 6.4.2 estimates the level of water stress as the ratio between the total volume of fresh water withdrawn by major economic sectors and the total renewable freshwater resources, after considering environmental water requirements. This indicator shows the degree to which water resources are being withdrawn to meet demand. The SDG 6.4.2 indicator for Australia increased from 2016–17 to 2019–20 (BOM 2021c). However, this increase is due to drier conditions that reduced renewable freshwater resources, rather than a significant increase in use. Values for the indicator were: 2016–17, 5.1% 2017–18, 7.7% 2018–19, 8.6% 2019–20, 8.0%. These estimates are well below the initial water stress level of 25% identified by the United Nations and suggest that water stress is low for Australia on a national level. However, the indicator makes no assessment of subnational water shortages; these are critical, considering the generally high availability and low use of water in northern Australia, compared with the high use in southern Australia. Assessment Water use and restrictions 2021 Adequate confidence Use of water has decreased and water restrictions have increased as a result of dry conditions; this situation is likely to continue under climate change. Related to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal targets 6.1, 6.3, 6.5 Legend How was this assessment made Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Linkedin Share this link Assessment Per-person use of water 2021 Adequate confidence Since 2016 and, in particular, over the past 3 years, per-person use of water has decreased. However, this is partly due to a drop in water availability arising from dry conditions, which resulted in restrictions on urban water use and very small allocations for agricultural purposes. Assessment Urban water restrictions 2021 Adequate confidence There were widespread urban water restrictions in the years since 2016 due to record low rainfall, which resulted in very low inflows into urban storages. In capital cities (e.g. Sydney), restrictions were placed on watering of gardens and washing of cars; however, in regional towns (e.g. Uralla), restrictions meant that water had to be carted in for essential purposes.