Government releases strategic plan for one of Australia’s main water sources

The Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan has been released and brings in new technical knowledge, better sustainable water resource management practices, and changing social and political contexts to build on the success of the first Strategic Management Plan of 2000, according to the authors.

There is also a focus on aligning Basin management more closely with nationally agreed strategies and frameworks, including the National Water Initiative.

The Great Artesian Basin is an indispensable national asset that we must manage carefully and cooperatively.

Everything from mining and pastoral concerns to traditional Aboriginal practices and natural ecosystems rely on this water resource.

This new Plan reflects extensive public consultation and collaboration across jurisdictions to sustain all these needs.

The ensures the Basin’s economies and communities succeed and its distinct environmental, cultural and heritage values are enhanced into the future.

With this approach, there can be greater certainty for farmers, traditional owners, businesses and communities who rely on the Basin.

A new Great Artesian Basin Stakeholder Advisory Committee will be established this year to advise on whole-of-Basin policies and initiatives. We will be seeking expressions of interest for this Committee soon.

Approximately 22 per cent of Australia’s land mass sits atop the Great Artesian Basin. It is a critical water resource for much of inland Australia’s farming stock and other agricultural needs.

New “Champions 12.3” Coalition to Inspire Action to Reduce Food Loss & Waste

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, a coalition of 30 leaders -Champions 12.3 -launched a new effort to reduce food loss and waste globally. 

The leadership group aims to accelerate progress toward meeting Target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which seeks to halve per capita food waste and reduce food losses by 2030.

Reducing food loss and waste can be highly beneficial: it can save money for farmers, companies and households; wasting less can feed more people; and reductions can alleviate pressure on climate, water and land resources.

The Champions include CEOs of major companies, government ministers, and executives of research and intergovernmental institutions, foundations, farmer organizations, and civil society groups.

These leaders will work to create political, business and social momentum to reduce food loss and waste around the world.

Inspired by the “No More Food to Waste” conference in The Hague in June of 2015, the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands formally called for the coalition’s formation in September 2015, and is providing secretariat support for Champions 12.3, along with World Resources Institute.

According to Vice-Minister for Agriculture in the Netherlands, Hans Hoogeveen, worldwide food loss impedes food security and fuels climate change.

"Food that is ultimately lost or wasted consumes about a quarter of all water used by agriculture, requires cropland area the size of China, and is responsible for an estimated 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emission," Mr Hoogeveen said.

"Through their leadership the Champions 12.3 will be able to connect these challenges, by forming smart alliances, bringing together leaders from private sector, local communities, farmers, science and government."

When climate change hits our food supply, city foodbowls could come to the rescue

Australians may need to get used to coping with more disruptions to their food supply and rising food prices in a warming climate.

But the food produced near our cities – our “city foodbowls” – could play a vital role in increasing the resilience of our food supply, as discussed in a new briefing from our Foodprint Melbourne project.

The urban fringes of Australia’s major cities are some of the most productive agricultural regions in Australia. They also have access to valuable urban waste streams to support food production, including recycled water from city water treatment plants and desalination plants.

Nonetheless, Australia’s city foodbowls are at risk of urban development, and the opportunity to develop them as climate resilient foodbowls could be lost unless their value is recognised in metropolitan planning policy.

Climate shock

The Queensland floods of 2010-11 showed how a sudden extreme weather event could disrupt a city’s food supply. Major transport routes to Brisbane and other cities were cut off and supermarkets began to run short of some food.

And the Millennium Drought demonstrated the impact that drought could have on food prices, when fruit prices in Australia increased 43% between 2005 and 2007, and vegetable prices by around 33%.

Climate change is expected to reduce the capacity for food production across southern Australia due to water scarcity, increasing temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events.

We don’t know exactly how climate change will affect food production, but it is likely that Australia’s major regional foodbowl, the Murray-Darling Basin, will see significant impacts in a severe drying scenario. Wheat and dairy production are predicted to decrease due to climate change. Crops such as fruit and vegetables are likely to be particularly affected.

As the impacts of climate change are felt in Australia’s regional foodbowls, urban and urban fringe (or “peri-urban”) areas of food production around Australian capital cities could become more important sources of fresh foods. Cities have access to resources that are in increasingly short supply, such as water, fertile land and organic waste streams that can be composted to provide fertilisers.

Australia’s city foodbowls

These urban fringes are not widely-recognised as “foodbowls”, but historically they have been an important source of food. Like many world cities, they were typically founded in fertile areas with good access to water. This fed their growing populations.

As cities sprawl, market gardens have been pushed further out and city foodbowls have shrunk, but many are still highly productive. Sydney’s foodbowl produces at least 20% of New South Wales’ total vegetable production, for instance, including the majority of the state’s total production of cabbage, spring onions, shallots and mushrooms.

Melbourne’s foodbowl produces a wide variety of foods, including fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs and meat. It currently has the capacity to meet up to 41% of the food needs of city’s population.

 

Crops such as lettuce are commonly grown on the urban fringes of cities thanks to close access to markets and labour Rachel Carey

 

Some areas of Melbourne’s foodbowl have access to recycled water, such as Werribee to the city’s west and the proposed Bunyip Food Belt to the south-east. The Werribee Irrigation District, next to Melbourne’s Western Treatment Plant, grows around 10% of the vegetables produced in Victoria, including the majority of the state’s broccoli and cauliflower.

Towards the end of the Millennium Drought, vegetable production in this region became dependent on recycled water from the water treatment plant as river levels fell.

But areas such as Werribee are under threat from urban development.

Resilient food supply

The importance of city foodbowls for resilient and sustainable food systems has been recognised internationally.

Cities such as Melbourne and Sydney are fed from a variety of sources – regional, national and global – as well as local. All are important, but urban and urban fringe food production has the potential to increase the resilience of a city’s food supply in a number of ways. These include reducing the dependence of city populations on distant sources of food, and maximising the use of limited natural resources.

If Australia’s capital cities are able to accommodate growing populations in a way that contains urban sprawl and retains their capacity for food production, city foodbowls could contribute to a food supply more resilient from climate change.

For this to happen, city planning strategies need to recognise the significance of city foodbowls for sustainable and resilient city food systems.

The Conversation

Rachel Carey, Research Fellow, Deakin University; Jennifer Sheridan, Researcher in sustainable food systems, University of Melbourne, and Kirsten Larsen, Manager, Food Systems Research and Partnerships, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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