Water policy issues addressed are of two types.
The first concerns water for irrigation. Some 70 per cent of water “used” in Australia is for irrigation, overwhelmingly within the Murray Darling Basin which is home for over 35 per cent of the nation’s agricultural output. Reductions in water rights in the Murray Darling have been implemented over recent years in response to green claims that the system is strained. Many advocates of reduced water allocations for productive uses wish to return the system to some idealized natural state. Such a state would actually experience periods of no flows followed by massive flooding. In fact the Murray Darling is a “working river” and has been for over a century and removal of water usage rights would bring considerable reductions in agricultural output.
The second issue concerns water for industrial and drinking uses. Environmental activists have forced governments to avoid collecting rain water and storing it in high dams. Instead governments have undertaken pricing and regulatory action to reduce usage and have built desalination plants which are some five times as expensive as water collected in dams.