Resilience and water security in two outback cities
Author: Glenn Albrecht, Helen Allison, Neville Ellis and Megan Jaceglav
Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and Broken Hill in New South Wales are towns located in semi-arid environments with limited local water supplies.Throughout the history of each town, the reaction to extreme dry periods and economic booms has been to develop new infrastructure and strategies to deliver more water and increase efficiencies. The challenges of balancing water supply and growth are ongoing and likely to become more severe with climate change. Broken Hill has undertaken temporary solutions during times of drought with few no long term investment. Desalination has been considered, but it is unclear if this will deliver a long-term sustainable solution. Kalgoorlie, in contrast has a pipeline was built from the Perth Hills to supply water to the town, resulting in a relatively stable water supply. Since 1980 however, expansion of gold mining activities has exceeded the capacity of the pipeline system. Extraction of water from local saline groundwater resources has also outstripped rates of groundwater recharge. A continuation of the current drought over south-western Australia will see a major crisis in water supply security and potential for failure of the water supply. Under climate change, Kalgoorlie is predicted to experience increased temperatures, declining rainfall and increased evaporation, all of which would reduce the supply of water, and its quality. This study is one of a suite of Historical Case Studies of Extreme Events conducted under Phase I of the NCCARF Synthesis and Integrative Research Program.