Welcome to the Bureau of Meteorology’s National Water Account, providing you with an annual picture of water availability around the country. We look at ten key regions, representing most of Australia’s population and more than 80 per cent of Australia’s water use
—analysing data from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016. During that time, Australia’s climate was influenced by a strong El Niño, which contributed to relatively dry conditions across the country for most of the year. In northern Australia, rainfall was well below average during January–March, which is typically the wettest part of the year. In the Ord region, the normal filling of Lake Argyle didn’t occur, and the storage volume dropped by almost 20 per cent during the year. In the Daly region, which relies heavily on groundwater, aquifer water stores were not replenished and dropped for the fourth consecutive year. In 2012, the Murray–Darling Basin storage volumes were near capacity, but have been steadily dropping since. By 2015 they were at 42 per cent and continued to fall to 39 per cent by 2016. Storage volumes in the urban centres also looked like being well below previous years’ levels. However, heavy rainfall associated with East Coast Lows in May and June helped storage volumes recover, especially along the east coast. National water use dropped by 8 per cent compared to the previous year, mainly due to a decrease in water use in the Murray–Darling Basin. This reflects the low water availability and drier conditions across the region, and continues a trend of reduced water use over the past few years. Around three quarters of Australia’s water supply was for commercial and private users, mainly related to agriculture. 18 per cent of the country’s water was for town supply; and 10 per cent was used to support the health of rivers, wetlands and floodplains. Surface water was the largest source of water across Australia, making up 78 per cent of all water used. However, in our capital cities, the drop in surface water availability meant the use of alternative water sources, such as inter-region transfers and desalinated water, increased during the year. In Adelaide and Melbourne, half the water supply was sourced from inter-region deliveries. While Perth’s desalination plants operated near capacity and provided around 20 per cent of the region’s water supply. In summary, a fourth consecutive year of dry conditions across much of Australia meant storage volumes continued to decrease around the country. And water use decreased in line with the reduced water availability. You can find more details on each of the ten regions on our website at bom.gov.au/water/nwa.