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Population and Environment in South Australia Research Paper

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Updated: May 12th, 2022


The population of South Australia is very small and is ranked the fifth among the six states. However the majority of the population is nucleated in the capital urban Adelaide where of course they cause strain to the resources. With the increase in population consumption in the urban there is a lot of waste that is directly proportion to the consumption rate. The state also has most of its small land being arid and semi arid. (Hamilton, 2000) The only small productive fertile land is occupied with agricultural activities taking place. The places have been over exploited to produce enough food for the population and for export purposes. The agricultural activity causes degradation to the environment due to over exploitation. The use of chemical fertilizers to maximize production meant for domestic and export uses pollute the environment and causes pollution to the water especially in river Murray that is used for irrigation. The mining activities in the South Australia also degrade the environment in the state and are a hazard to the environment. Industrial manufacturing which is also a major export sector in South Australia pollutes the environment through the disposal of the waste product that ends in the ocean and the rivers. The air pollution in the state comes from the industries and locomotives. The population highly concentrated in the state’s capital produces more waste products that pollute the environment. (Apelbaum, 2003). The expansion of the urban in the South Australia causes a threat to the biodiversity in the area whereas the government neglects the patterns monitoring the protection of the biodiversity and the coastal strip where tourism activity takes place causing pollution in Australia. The long term development strategies in Australia for example the Melbourne 2030, the Sydney metropolitan, strategy, and the Adelaide planning strategy in South Australia is in its efforts to define the expansion limits of the urban and agricultural land to protect the rural land and conservation areas in the state.


Human population is a factor of several characteristics such as age, mortality and migration. The environment is the surrounding areas that support human life. The human existence relies entirely on the environment and its destruction can cause trouble in the life of humans. (Hamilton, 2000).

South Australia is one of the six states in Australia in the Southern Central of the continent. The state covers most of the arid parts of the Australian land and has a population of about 1.5 million people living in 983,482 square kilometers of land. The majority of the population lives in the capital Adelaide while the rest live in the fertile lands along the coast and river Murray.

The states economy revolves around the agricultural, mining and manufacturing industries which brings concern to the environment issues. Mining is a method of resource exploitation but the effects are environmental degrading. The agricultural activities carried out in the fertile lands in the south eastern coast and along river Murray pose danger to the environment. On the other hand the industrialization process has negative effects on the environment related to pollution of air water and the land. This report looks at the relationship between the population and the environment in South Australia State. The fact that the state occupies most of the arid and semi arid areas in the Australian continent is a clear indication of the problems concerning the environment in the region. (Hamilton, 2000).

The key effect that the population has over the environment in South Australia is the settlement which imposes pressure on the environment. The settlement in South Australia adds pressure on demand for land, and other important resources such as water, energy and other resources. The consumption of resources in Australia is incredibly high and the trends shows that per capita household consumption income increased by 25 per cent between 1995/1996 and 2005/2006. The increase in consumption rate has puts pressure on the environment and the cultural heritage as it strains the resources.

A sustainable human environment can be achieved in South Australia through the reduction of consumption rate and waste. This report seeks to establish the environmental impacts of the population in South Australia and the possible ways of achieving this sustainable human environment.


The method of research that was applied in this research is interview. The interview questions were formulated prior to the main interview in order to gather the necessary information. Secondary sources were also used to familiarize the researcher with the situation of the environment and population in South Australia State. Among these secondary sources include; the internet, books, journals and articles as well as published government reports on the issue of population and environment.

Data collection tools were also used including tape recording of information provided during the interview. The data was analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively using various methods to draw conclusive recommendation.

Proposed Data design

The data collection will be from primary and secondary sources. The primary sources of data is the information that was provided by the interviewee while the secondary sources are the information from books and journal and the internet that provide information about the environmental pressures and the population in South Australia. The interview was conducted in an environmental government agency in Adelaide that is concerned in the protection of the natural rural and conservation of places. The interviewee is the manager of the South Australia Environmental Agency who provided the primary information. However in this research only the analysis of the information on population and environment will be dealt with and the actual interview will be omitted.

South Australia population and environmental issues

There are several environmental problems that are related to population in Australia. The population of Australia has been increasing in the past years which mean that there is pressure on the less resources available in the South Australia, considering that most of the land is arid and semi arid. However the fall in population growth rate from 2.4 per cent to 0.5 per cent in the year 2001 to 2006 has not resolved the effects that are subjected to the environment buy the population. There is increase in demand for land for settlement (building of homes), this is because the number of the older population is increasing rapidly as compared to that of young people. The elderly are more likely to stay alone in their own home which is the reason there is pressure on land for construction of new homes.

The other reason why settlement is in increase is because of the changes in the lifestyle of the people, more people prefer staying in the urban than in rural which is straining the resources in the rural. Due to this the state released a report that is comprehensive and well updated in 2003 to strategize on metropolitan Adelaide to improve and integrate the environmental impact of the increasing settlement in the metropolitan Adelaide. The strategies include planning policy management and sustainability principles.

The resources in the South Australia that are under pressure due to the population growth are energy, water and land. The increase in population result to increase in demand for food, South Australia relies on agriculture for food and export. The overexploitation of land for agriculture along the Murray river causes environmental degradation through the long time use of fertilizers and chemicals in the farms. (Apelbaum, 2003) Plans to establish a growth boundary in the urban Adelaide aimed at arresting or controlling the city’s urban sprawl that would encourage higher density nucleated residential development and resettlement closer to the city public facilities, such as infrastructure that are highly developed. This would help in the reduction of scattered population thus creating land for agriculture. By containing the population, it will be possible to minimize pollution and environmental degradation.

The expanding population in Adelaide has a lot of negative effects on the environment and the resources. The increase in the population increases production in the city due to increase in demand. Consumption rate goes high and the amount of waste, that is, wastewater, solid waste and gaseous waste increase proportionally. (Hamilton, 2000) The wastewater and the sewage are drained into the rivers around that area which is a great health hazard. The storm water run off also increases pollution in the rivers. The solid waste finds its way on the fields therefore polluting the environment. The use of fossil fuel and natural gas pollutes the air with carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide which is concentrated in the urban. This increases the effect of global warming in the South Australia. However the advantages of a contained urban population are that, by having a nucleated population in the urban, there is a reduction in the distances made by motor vehicles thus reducing the consumption of the fossil fuel through transport. This in turn reduces the production of green house gases. The urban settlement also reduces pressure on land for agriculture and on the native vegetation that are conserved for residential uses.

The green city program in Adelaide plays a very important role in branding Adelaide as a green city with minimal pollution and sustainable use of resources.

The increased use of energy due to the increase in population directly affects the quality of the environment. The energy used in Australia, that is, fossil fuel (coal and oil) are non renewable and their extraction process through mining directly degrade the environment. Their use as fuel is a major air pollutant in the entire Australia. The over use of these non renewable sources of energy is dangerous because they can be exhausted if there is no sustainable use of the environment.

In South Australia, there is aridity in most of the areas; the water available is little as compared to the demand and use. Most of the available water, in fact, over 80 per cent is used for agricultural activities in southern Australia to meet the food demand and to produce more for export. This have strained the water resources by far which have called for the reuse of water program to counter the water problem.

The use of water for domestic use and industrial use has also risen from the increased population and production increase in the industries.

The Kangaroos are a tourist attraction in the south of Australia. They faced several dangers of poaching and destruction of their habitat due to the wastewater that is directed to the natural environment; however there is a special program that has been established by the government for the preservation of the Kangaroos. (Hamilton, 2000).

South Australia has a rich biodiversity in the marine environment which is the highest level of marine biodiversity in the world. This is due to the extensive coastline that is about 3700 KM. As a result of this uniqueness South Australia acquire itself a name as the unique south. The uniqueness is however being destroyed by the population changes that affect the environment.

Facts and Findings

The use of water in Australia has been increasing. Between 2000 and 2001 about 75 per cent of water was being used for irrigation purposes, 5 per cent used in other sectors in the rural while water for domestic use accounted for 9 per cent of water use and the industrial and commercial use accounted for the remaining 9 per cent. Water reuse has also increased with 516.5 gigalitres of water reused in from 2000 to 2002 from the 134.4 gigalitres reused in 1996 and 1997. Of the reused water, 82 per cent is used for irrigation purposes. South Australia is the leading in the recycling and reuse of recycled water in the whole of the Australian states. (Smith, 2001) The amount of waste products generated in South Australia increase with population with about one tonne of waste disposed in the landfill per person although in some parts of Australia, the waste are decreasing, the amounts continue to increase in the South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Australian capital. The solids wastes that include municipal waste that accounts for the larger percentage followed by the commercial, industrial and demolition waste are disposed in the landfill.

Of the waste collected in the landfills, only 5 per cent is collected for treatment and it is basically the liquid waste. Automotive related waste (used oil and tyres) have increased and only one per cent of the total 472 tonnes was recycled in 2001 which was better than in the previous year where none was recycled.

Solid Waste

The primary pollutants of land related to the population are the solid wastes from the human settlement. The sources of pollution to land in the urban are mainly from human settlement and industrial emissions. In the rural Australia, land pollution comes from the land use activities such as the use of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture. The mining processing of minerals and the agricultural emissions pollute land. Land pollution affects the terrestrial biota. The toxic pollutants in the soil can be absorbed in plants and fed on by animals and they can cause health hazards to the human health. The pollutants on land can be absorbed in ground water or washed through surface runoff to surface water in the river and into the ocean. The contamination of water is a danger to marine environment that South Australia has.

Population and urban growth in Australia is unique and has devastating effects on the environment. Despite the population growth decline from 2.4 to 0.5 per cent with South Australia being the second slowest in population growth, the availability of land for development of new settlement has been declining. The number of new houses in the metropolitan areas of Adelaide has increased due to the trend in the population growth and the age as stated earlier. This increase in settlement continues to pose challenges to the natural environment in Adelaide and its surroundings. The clearance of the natural vegetation to create room for new settlement have effects on the climate of the city, air need to be purified by the green plants but their destruction leads to increase of the green house gases.

Energy consumption

Energy use in South Australia is a major contributor of the green house gases due to the consumption of fossil fuel in transport and as a major source of power. 98 per cent of the energy used in South Australia comes from fossil fuel and natural gas. Of all of this energy about 75 per cent in household is used to warm water. The use of these non renewable sources of energy is a threat to the environment and the government has adopted the use of the renewable energy such as solar and wind energy. (Hamilton, 2000).


The transport sector also cause pollution as the majority of people just like in any developed country own at least a car, in metropolitan Adelaide, trips made by car increased by 12 per cent during weekdays and 5.6 per cent during weekends. The passenger kilometers covered by car also increased by 150 million kilometers from 1998-2001. South Australia has the second oldest motor fleet which contributes to pollution.

Conclusion and Recommendation

The process of recycling in the South Australia can be a solution to the environmental pressures created by the population. Most households in Australian’s urban and the cities do recycle some waste products which are mostly newspapers and the green wastes. The amount of the recycled waste and the reuse of the recycled waste in Australia have risen to 36 per cent. However, there is a problem with recycling in the rural. For example in the South State of Australia, where the majority live in the urban, recycling is higher as over 80 per cent of the 1.5 million population live in the urban. The few that stay in the rural are unable to recycle the domestic wastes due to the costs associated with the collection of the waste and transportation to the industrial urban. (Smith, 2001).

In contrast, the reuse of the recycled waste is higher in the rural than in the urban as most of the recycled waste especially the wastewater is recycled and most of it is used in the agricultural activities in the rural.

South Australia has adopted policies that are aimed at reduction of waste by the municipal landfills. Although the policies have been successful, they need to refocus in its mission to achieve good results. Vigorous cost analysis benefits and risks should be the guiding principles for both the community and the policy makers for them to acquire the best returns in the recycling process.

The Product Stewardship for Oil Program is a program that deals with the recycling of oil which has increased to high levels in Australia.

The government has also established the use of renewable sources of energy, that include solar energy, wind energy and bio energy to reduce the amount of pollution produced by the over use of the fossil fuel. Transport has changed course with the aim to reduce pollution. People are encouraged to cycle over small distances instead of using a car. The cycle paths have been increased to allow more space for cycling. (Apelbaum, 2003).

The changes in the transport trends can help in the reduction of pollution as well as reduce energy consumption of the fossil fuel. The government should regulate the registry of cars and car ownership. Owning a car should not be seen as a right but a privilege if the environment has to be saved from the global warming effect.


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Boyden, S. (2002), Our Biosphere under Threat: Ecological Realities and Australia’s Opportunities (Melbourne, Oxford University Press).

Crome, F and Moore, L. (1998), Linkages between Australia’s Population and Biodiversity Loss, (London, Oxford University Press).

Hamilton, C. and Turton, H. (1999), Population Policy and Environmental Degradetion, (New York, McGraw Hill).

Hamilton, N. (2000), Impacts of Settlement in Adelaide, (Melbourne, Oxford University Press).

Lowe, I. (1998), Australia’s Non Renewable Resource Base, (Melbourne, Longman Cheshire).

Joske, S. (2001), Immigration, Population and Sustainable Environment, (Melbourne, Oxford University Press).

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