Australia's use of groundwater has increased significantly over recent decades. For example, in 13 years from 1983 to 1996 our national reliance on groundwater increased by nearly 90 per cent.
Future use of groundwater in Australia is projected to rise, especially as surface water resources may become less available due to climate change and prolonged droughts.
Groundwater is an extremely important resource across many parts of the country, especially where surface water is of limited supply or poor quality. It is widely used as the main source of drinking water for many cities and towns. For example, groundwater in Western Australia currently supplies about two-thirds of the state's entire water requirements, and is the major source of water used in Perth and many rural towns.
Groundwater is also an important water source in Australia for a wide range of other purposes, such as irrigation, agriculture and industrial use. In fact, irrigation practices account for just over half of all groundwater used by Australians. Many local councils and private households use bore water to maintain parks and gardens.
Groundwater from natural mineral springs is bottled and sold throughout the country, and is also used to make popular soft drinks and alcoholic beverages such as beer.
Groundwater is also used by natural ecosystems. In many parts of Australia, native fauna and flora rely solely on groundwater for their survival. Groundwater also contributes water directly to rivers and lakes as baseflow, often maintaining surface water bodies in times of drought.
In the arid zone, groundwater sustains important natural and cultural values. Pastoral activities in many towns throughout Australia would not be viable without access to groundwater resources. Similarly, many large-scale mining projects and much of the petroleum production industry across the arid zone are wholly dependent on groundwater, much of it from non-renewable resources.