EconomicsFood ShortagesWater Contaminaton & Loss

The Driest Inhabited Continent on Earth is Also the World’s Biggest Water Exporter!

While the Murray-Darling Basin Authority apparently struggles to find even a paltry 7,600 gigalitres of water in its increasingly compromised attempt to restore the nation’s most vital and productive river system, a new report reveals Australia to be the world’s largest nett exporter of virtual water in crop, livestock and industrial products; exported virtual water being that consumed to create produce for export.

The report also indicates that our agricultural sector is responsible for the vast majority of the total volume of water exported from Australia in this way, shipping an average of 72,000 gigalitres of virtual water overseas every year,

“While few would question the important contribution made by most Australian farmers, it defies belief that a country continually struggling with unreliable rainfall and severe drought allows more virtual water to be lost than any other nation on the planet”, national coordinator of Fair Water Use, Ian Douglas, commented today.

He added, “This sad fact is made even more poignant when one considers that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority seems incapable of finding a mere 7,600 gigalitres of environmental water to ensure the health of our most important river system”.

“These statistics also confirm the errant irresponsibility of applying Murray-Darling water to semi-desert country, irrigating water-intensive crops such as cotton — a product which largely heads offshore, together with the vast amount of virtual water it contains”, he concluded.

The report may be accessed here (1.8mb PDF). Tip: search the PDF for ‘Australia’.

Further Reading:


  1. These days, perhaps especially, bitter ironies abound. To discover yet another seems almost too easy.

  2. Just the fact this post above exists shows a growing concern of people/nations on what happens with their increasingly scarce resources.

    What you have left out from your post are the other consequences of agriculture – for example desertification due overgrazing, salination, ploughing, deforestation ect.

  3. Another potential irony, Matt, and perhaps a fundamental one, is that the very systemic mechanisms that underly the “corporatocratic nation-state”‘s functions are ultimately what threaten it…

    “Consequently, resources that have traditionally been managed communally by local organizations have been enclosed or privatized. Ostensibly, this serves to “protect” such resources, but it ignores the pre-existing management, often appropriating resources and alienating indigenous (and frequently poor) populations. In effect, private or state use may result in worse outcomes than the previous management of commons.”
    ~ Wikipedia, entry on the Tragedy of the Commons

    “The Eden that Europeans described when they reached North America was not a wilderness, but a well-managed resource, a complex combination of nature and culture, ecology and economy, a system so subtle and effective that it eluded the settlers who saw only natural wealth free for the taking. The result of this land grab in North America is that only 2% of the land is now wild, its major rivers are polluted, its lakes have caught fire, and its forests are dying from the top down. The tragedy of this commons was that it never really was a commons after colonization, but was surrendered to plunder, privatization, and exploitation in the name of Manifest Destiny and progress.”

  4. I always say that agriculture is humanity’s war (or terrorism) against nature. Stop this and all our problems will be solved.

  5. All the worlds problems can be solved in a garden. B.Mollison
    Horticulture can be sustainable, agriculture can not.

  6. I wonder if we could have a patch of ground to rent . We could grow our Vegetables and perhaps fruit.
    The growing number of Unit living haven’t gardens.
    Horticulture is an untapped resource .
    We could have a Horticulture set up on our Verandahs.
    I understand about the early Settlers and how they cut the Trees down.
    We must think forward now.
    If we could just think of ways to save water and grow some of what we need.
    It is a start.

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