Report reveals alarming future of our water security
THE severity of droughts and floods in Queensland is expected to increase as a result of climate change, new research shows.
The Climate Council's latest report, Deluge and Drought: Australia's Water Security in a Changing Climate, found the state was likely to experience more intense rainfall events in future, as well as cyclones.
Climate Councillor and co-author Professor Hilary Bambrick said climate change was shifting rainfall patterns and increasing the severity of droughts and floods.
"We've always been a country of droughts and flooding rains, but things are going to get worse," she said.
"In Queensland, we can expect to see more intense rainfall events and cyclones as our climate continues to change.
"Those sort of events affect agriculture and are likely to damage important food crops, including bananas.
"Climate change also affects people's health in many ways - both drought and flood can contaminate our water supplies and be a source of psychological stress in rural communities, while higher rainfall can increase mosquito-borne diseases such as Dengue and Ross River virus."
It comes after temporary full supply levels were enacted for Somerset Dam and Wivenhoe Dam as part of the Somerset Dam Improvement Project in January 2016.
These equate to storage percentages of about 80% for Somerset Dam and 90% for Wivenhoe Dam.
The temporary full supply levels will remain in place until dam improvement works at Somerset Dam are completed.
Seqwater will start flood releases from Wivenhoe and Somerset dams if storage levels exceed the enacted temporary full supply levels as a result of rainfall in the dam catchments.
Wivenhoe and Somerset dams have among the lowest levels of the Seqwater dams; at 69.3% and 76.6% respectively.
Acting Climate Council CEO Dr Martin Rice said Australia would have to face up to some significant water security challenges as a result of climate change.
"Severe droughts are expected to become more frequent, particularly in southern Australia, increasing the risk of water shortages for agriculture and urban water supplies," Dr Rice said.
"We've seen temperatures rising in Australia over the long-term. This has been driven primarily by the burning of coal, oil and gas."
Dr Rice said water-related infrastructure, such as dam spillways and river levees, had been designed for historic rainfall patterns.
"Upgrading this infrastructure to cope with increased flooding and drought, as well as building new facilities, is expensive," he said. "We've already spent billions of dollars on desalination plants.
"We must act urgently to reduce our greenhouse gas pollution levels, which have been rising for three years in a row.
"Australia's water security is dependent on global action on climate change and we must do our fair share.
"Queensland, as the sunshine state, has the opportunity to accelerate the transition to renewables."