In recent decades we have seen amazing innovative advancements in agriculture and manufacturing practices that have been developed to support the needs of a booming global population. These advancements have come about through investment from private industry, improved technology and global trade routes. And one other vital ingredient – pure fresh water. Every single supply chain or production line in the world has water as one of its key components, using practices that did not necessarily factor in the finiteness of this resource. The 2009 Global Innovation Outlook Report on Water provides some interesting insights into the volume of water required to produce various goods, including:
- 70 litres of water to make one apple
- 140 litres of water to make one cup of coffee
- 1,300 litres of water to make one kilogram of wheat
- 10,855 litres of water to make one pair of jeans
These calculations take into account every drop of water used in the production lifecycle, from irrigation to industrial processes, to discharge. In Australia, we are looking closely at this virtual use of water as our water resources drop to critical levels. Unprecedented droughts, particularly over the last 10 years, have motivated our Government, industry and community leaders to address this issue, particularly at the agricultural level. Currently, many of our farmers, who use 70% of our fresh water, still irrigate on a ‘flood the field’ basis, losing up to 75% of the water to evaporation. As a result, these traditional irrigation systems take up to four times the water they need to produce each tonne of grain. Thankfully we all recognise that to make our economy sustainable and to manage our most precious resource, we need to create an integrated, intelligent water system. A smart network that monitors its own health, remotely senses damage, assesses water availability and predicts demand. A system that helps manage end-to-end distribution, from reservoirs to pumping stations to smart pipes to holding tanks to intelligent metering at the user site – so we can manage water consumption efficiently. In the following light-hearted video, we demonstrate how we will evolve to meet our water use needs for domestic, agriculture, community and environmental purposes. We have an opportunity to transform the way Australia manages water to create an integrated, intelligent system that helps us to use water wisely.