The world’s oceans – their temperature, chemistry, currents and life – drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. How we manage this vital resource is essential for humanity as a whole, and to counter balance the effects of climate change.
The SDGs aim to sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems from pollution, as well as address the impacts of ocean acidification. Enhancing conservation and the sustainable use of ocean-based resources through international law will also help mitigate some of the challenges facing our oceans. Source
It's hard to imagine, but about 97 percent of the Earth's water can be found in our oceans. Of the tiny percentage that's not in the ocean, about two percent is frozen up in glaciers and ice caps. Less than one percent of all the water on Earth is fresh. A tiny fraction of water exists as water vapor in our atmosphere.
Oceans also absorb about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide produced by humans, and we are seeing a 26 percent rise in ocean acidification since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Marine pollution, an overwhelming majority of which comes from land-based sources, is reaching alarming levels, with an average of 13,000 pieces of plastic litter to be found on every square kilometre of ocean.
Australia is the hottest, driest inhabited continent on earth, it’s critical we all respect water as a precious resource Do we think and talk about water only when we are in drought?
Do we complain about the price of water, but are happy to pay $3 a bottle for it at the shop?
Do urban residents think differently about water to people living in rural and regional areas?
Do we know enough about our water resources to understand if governments and industry and the community are protecting our water supply for now and the future?
Is government, business, and the community doing enough to ensure Australia’s marine environment is healthy, productive, valued and used in a responsible way.
Even though Australia is one of the world's most arid continents, our inland waters support a rich diversity of life. In the video below, Dr Carmel Pollino talks about Australia's unique inland water ecosystems and how water can best be managed for the benefit of biodiversity and our communities.
A catchment is an area where water is collected by the natural landscape. In a catchment, all rain and run-off water eventually flows to a creek, river, dam, lake, a groundwater system and ocean.
Human activities such as urban development, agriculture, septic systems and land clearing have the potential to impact the health of our catchments.
Caring for our rivers, dams, groundwater and ocean environments helps ensure healthy catchments and provides our community with:
The MidCoast Council on the NSW coast is taken a proactive approach to maintain the health of their catchment and engaging with everyone in their community and encouraging them to act together.
The council recently released their Water Card Report
Agriculture and food production uses 70% of water in Australia. The role of agriculture in the health of waterways is important. Farmers have a responsibility to ensure their farming methods provide nutritious, affordable and safe food and protect our waterways.
Farmers share a common goal in encouraging their fellow landholders to enhance and protect their waterways and to benefit from the resulting on-farm gains.
"Intensive farming with increased farm productivity can go hand in hand with waterway health. We are all in this together and we need to engage all stakeholders and people of all ages to work effectively towards a common vision of clean air and clean water for everyone." Lynne Strong MidCoast Water Report Launch 2016.
The best outcomes for healthy catchments and our oceans are achieved when all farmers focus on
A great example of farmers and government and the environmental groups working together to protect the health of our oceans is the Reef Guardian Farmers and Graziers project.
Reef Guardian Farmers and Graziers are forward-thinking landholders who want to show how they are doing their bit to care for the Great Barrier Reef as responsible land managers.
These farmers and graziers are promoting sustainable farming practices that make economic sense and are also good for the environment.
The program is building a way to recognise and support the efforts of participants who are doing great work to manage natural resources through effective land management.
Runoff from urban and suburban areas is a major origin of water pollution. Much of the urban environment is paved with asphalt or concrete, or covered with buildings. These surfaces are usually impervious, meaning that water runs off of them without being absorbed into the soil. These hard, impervious surfaces make it easier for stormwater to pick up, absorb, and carry pollutants.
Other environments in urban and suburban areas also add to water pollution. At construction sites, soil that has been disturbed or piled up without being contained can easily erode. Discarded construction materials (plastics, wood, oils, trash) can also be carried away from these sites by runoff waters.
In suburban areas, the chemicals used in lawn care, and even pet wastes, often end up in runoff and contribute to nonpoint source pollution. In many towns and cities, the water flowing into storm drains is not treated before emptying into nearby waterbodies.
Australia's oceans contain the richest, most diverse life on Earth. We have the third largest marine territory (behind the United States and France), and our continent borders three mighty oceans - the Pacific, Indian and Southern Ocean.
Such global significance brings a global responsibility. We have a privilege and a duty to manage our oceans wisely and with the future in mind. Source
Life originated in the ocean but the breadth of its biodiversity is still being discovered. Australian scientists Dr Alan Butler and Dr Nic Bax talk about the unique habitats of the sea, the challenges it poses to exploration, and the new tools and technologies helping to discover and manage the biodiversity it holds. Source
Marine Debris is a global issue and our dependence on plastics and the development into a throwaway society has had huge ramifications for our oceans. With much of our waste ending up in our oceans due to urban runoff, littering, and other sources around the globe, we now face a very serious issue which is threatening life on earth.
In Australia, we have the two superhero organisations Ocean Watch and Take3 who are taking the lead and inspiring us all to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources to ensure sustainable development.
Visit their websites and see what you and your community can do to help.
Meet Tim Silverwood who is working with government, industry and education to create solutions for a cleaner tomorrow.
Tim Silverwood - How did our lives become so plastic?
Local young people from all over the Illawarra regularly get together and collaborate on local beach clean up activities, collecting rubbish and entering data into the National Marine Debris Initiative.
Surfrider Foundation is an international movement of surfers who care about the health of our oceans and run regular local campaigns to help keep our oceans clean and healthy.
The University of Wollongong also has a UOW Surfrider Foundation Club that students can get involved in. They run regular documentary evenings and student discussions around marine debris issues.
People from the community regularly get together and sew bags for sustainability. A global initiative which started right here in Australia is now empowering communities to step away from plastic bags and use bags made from materials which would have otherwise ended up in landfill!
It is important that consumers understand the choices they are making.
Water policy decisions are not only about technical or economic issues, but reflect the underlying consumer values and attitudes. Empowering consumers to engage on key water issues and to consider options is vital to delivering the best results for Australians.