Geoff Evans, the Institute's director, told Reuters than China should learn from the Hunter Valley, one of Australia's prime coal fields.
'Coal-fired power stations are contributing to the problem of water overuse in Southern Australia,' he said. 'There's conflict between power station use of water and other water uses, particularly farmers.'
His warning comes a week after Australian premier John Howard warned that irrigation to the continent's central food bowl may have to be cut off to preserve dwindling water supplies. The cut-backs could also mean a shut-down of the Snowy Hydro power scheme, which will mean the burning of more coal to meet the energy deficit.
Evans said that intensive coal mining in the Hunter valley, where another 12 vast, open-cast mines are due to open in the next five years, means that other industries which required clean air and water could not operate. The wine industry in particular is set to suffer.
He called for a cap on coal exports and a moratorium on new mines.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist April 2007