Overall, Australia survived the Millennium Drought, demonstrating world leading innovation and exceptional examples of water planning and management driven by crisis. Yet there are also examples of missed opportunities, as well as initiatives and decisions that did not work well. The research presented here reflects on some of the key lessons from the Australian Millennium Drought experience in order to assess the opportunities for California.
This report serves as a powerful resource for Californian water planners and managers as it grapples with drought and seeks to build resilient and sustainable water systems. It provides a one-stop shop overview of the key events and initiatives implemented in Australia’s four largest cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane (and the surrounding south east Queensland region), and Perth.
The work represents one interpretation of the drought and responses, informed by significant engagement with utilities and governments throughout that period, and a close working knowledge of the water systems and the policy environment. Specific attention is given to the role of demand-side measures in reducing the impact of drought. In Australia, urban water efficiency was the quiet achiever – saving more water at lower cost and greater speed than supply options. California can benefit from long-term structural water savings by implementing water efficiency measures at a similar breadth and scale.