Water is essential to all life. The Northern Territory’s water regulatory system is inadequate to meet the current and future threats and challenges to our water resources. Climate change, industrial agriculture and water insecurity in remote Indigenous communities are three of the biggest threats we face to safeguard our most precious resource.
Climate change is significantly impacting our water resources, and the viability of life in the Northern Territory, including from harsher and longer droughts, erratic rainfall (and recharge of aquifers), and increased evapotranspiration. Recent research has found that three of the NT’s principal ecosystems, the northern savannas and coastal mangrove forests of the wet/dry tropics in the “Top End”, and the arid zone interior of Central Australia, all meet the criteria to be classified as “collapsing”. Climate change is also likely to worsen existing inequalities in health, infrastructure provision, lack of educational and employment opportunities, and income in Indigenous communities.
The Northern Territory Government is proceeding with plans for large-scale industrial and water-intensive agriculture across the Northern Territory. For example, there are plans for 168,000 hectares of agribusiness development across the Northern Territory, involving extensive land clearing of NT savannas and the arid zone (which are, as highlighted above, are ecosystems on the verge of collapse), and which will require billions of additional litres of the Northern Territory’s groundwater and surface water.
Safe Drinking Water Act
There is significant and long standing water insecurity in remote Indigenous communities, including due to the fact that drinking water is unregulated and unprotected in these places. ALEC has been advocating for a Safe Drinking Water Act in the NT, alongside other organisations and the four Territory land councils.