Australia is often referred to as one of the driest parts of the earth, with low and variable rainfall and runoff over much of the continent. However, erratic precipitation and long periods of drought can be interspersed with excessive rainfall and disastrous flooding. Australia can be both a very dry and a very wet land. As a result, Australians have had to make intensive use of limited water resources to support highly productive irrigated agriculture and an urbanised, coastal population. Now, the country's water resources, particularly river systems and wetlands, are showing increasing signs of stress.
Given the variable nature of the occurrence and availability of Australia's water resources, it is hardly surprising that water occupies such a prominent place in the history of European settlement of the continent. Until recently, the emphasis was on water quantity and every opportunity was grasped to harvest and store as much water as possible for human use. It is only in the past 20 years that attitudes to water in Australia have begun to change and serious economic and environmental questions have been directed at water resources development and stream regulation, and storage construction. Emphasis has now turned to management of available water supplies in an economic and ecologically sustainable manner.
Along with this shift have come concerted efforts to ensure that the full range of values - economic and otherwise - placed on water in competing uses are observed. Australia's water industry is being called upon for a commitment to rationalising conflicting claims on the resource and to achieving consensus on the redistribution of demand in time and space between existing and emerging uses and values of water.has particular relevance.
Australia is not alone in experiencing disputes over water. The theme adopted for the IXth Congress in Montreal reflected this when it referred to "conflicts and opportunities" for water resources in the 21st century. Balancing entitlements to water is a global issue as demands for good quality water place growing pressure on an increasingly scarce resource. The challenge of meeting these demands and satisfying competing claims on the earth's waters through sustainable management is the focus of the Xth Congress of the International Water Resources Association, strategically timed at the threshold of a new millennium.
Siting the Congress in Melbourne focuses attention on the value of water resources to Australia and the need for their equitable and sustainable management. However, the Congress deliberations will also act as a powerful medium for consideration of regional water issues of the Southern Hemisphere and the Asia-Pacific realm. Five Congresses and 18 years will have gone by since the IVth World Congress was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is time to revisit that other half of the world south of the Equator and provide an opportunity for the International Water Resources Association to present a truly global perspective on water resources.
INTERNATIONAL WATER RESOURCES ASSOCIATION XTH WORLD WATER CONGRESS MELBOURNE, VICTORIA AUSTRALIA 11- 17 MARCH 2000
The International Water Resources Association (IWRA) was founded as an international forum to promote interdisciplinary communication and cooperation in water-related areas. The Association is an international, non-governmental, non-political, non-profit, educational organisation comprising individuals irrespective of race, colour, age, sex, creed, religion, nationality or political affiliation.
The principal objectives of the International Water Resources Association are:
1. advancement of water resources planning, management, development, technology, research and education at international, regional and national levels;
2. establishment of a multi-disciplinary forum for engineers, planners, administrators, managers, scientists, educators and others who are interested in water resources;
3. dissemination of knowledge and information in the area of water and related resources and the environment; and
4. encouragement and promotion of international, regional and national water resources programmes for the common benefit of mankind.
Awareness of global water concerns has been discussed and debated in several forums around the world. At the inter-governmental level it is being promoted internationally through the United Nations system and the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in 1992 in Rio de Janiero (UNCED). From this came AGENDA 21, of which Chapter 18 was devoted to water issues. The UN General Assembly declared 22 March each year to be Annual World Water Day.
The IXth World Water Congress of the International Water Resources Association was held in Montreal in September 1997 around the theme, 'Water Resources Outlook for the 21st Century: Conflicts and Opportunities'.
The Melbourne Congress will build on this theme and promote understanding and cooperation in water management at the international, regional and local levels.