Infrastructure Australia has placed climate change in the top tier of its priority list for the first time, warning that drought, flooding and bushfires pose a catastrophic threat to Australia.
The priority list includes three new initiatives focused on water security, primarily in improving water supply and resilience for town and city populations. IA has found that the water cycle is being altered by the changing climate and changes to run-off and evaporation due to land use and forest management.
“Without appropriately planning for these challenges, there could be severe urban water shortages or restrictions in many parts of the country,” the report reads.
“For regional towns, water utilities often rely on a single supply source, with no physical link to an alternative bulk water supply. The lack of supply diversification creates further water security risks for these communities.”
The report also notes the growing threat of coastal inundation, which leapt to prominence following storms that battered Australia through January and early February. According to IA, the cost to households of a flood of up to one metre are between $60,000 and $80,000 – and the costs of larger, more sustained flooding leading to forced relocation would be even greater.
Sea inundation can damage residential, commercial and industrial property, and essential infrastructure,” the report reads.
“Rising sea levels also have significant environmental consequences, such as coastal squeeze, where intertidal (seashore) habitats are disrupted and lost.”
That could require the creation of seawalls, buffer zones and other physical assets to protect populations, or infrastructure to facilitate early flood warnings and evacuations.
“What is clear from recent events is that our infrastructure networks face unprecedented risks,” said Infrastructure Australia chair Julieanne Alroe.
“Climate change brings with it higher temperatures, unpredictable seasonal rainfall and water availability, more extreme winds, more extreme weather events and bushfire seasons the likes of which Australia has never seen.”
“As we enter a new decade of infrastructure investment, we must plan for resilience in our infrastructure networks based on a stronger understanding of these risks.”
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