No End In Sight For Australia's Crippling Drought

Australia’s drought-stricken areas face severe water shortages in the coming months as local regional water supplies dwindle to almost nothing. In New South Wales the situation is dire while Western Australia and Queensland are also at crisis point.

According to the latest report from WaterNSW who operate the state’s water supply systems, large swathes of New South Wales are in danger of having no water available with the state’s rural storage capacity at 31 per cent and heading down fast.

The bad news for regional areas is the drought is predicted to get worse with no relief in sight for farmers and below average rainfall predicted for November and December according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

To put things in perspective, Sydney largest dam is currently at just over 48 per cent of capacity yet last year it was close to 66 per cent. Travel further west into regional areas and the number drops to 1 per cent of active storage capacity in the Lower Darling Valley and around 4 per cent in the Macquarie Valley.

Regional centres such as Bourke, Dubbo and even Orange face the very real risk of running out of water although the Orange City Council has spent over $90 million since the last drought to mitigate against water shortages. The bad news is while this has had an effect the town has recently moved to Level 5 water restrictions as the drought bites deeper into local water storage.

Image credit - Jeremy Piper

At the same time, as towns run out of water, cities such as Sydney are placed under more pressure as rural Australians, sick of drought conditions and a lagging rural economy, look to the big smoke for opportunities.

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, the drought is not only seeing an influx or rural dwellers to our cities but is also discouraging urbanites to move to the country.

Moreover, the latest Westpac/Melbourne Institute survey of consumer sentiment sees confidence in regional areas drop to levels of negativity not seen in decades.

Is there in good news? WaterNSW are desperately trying to shunt water around the state to meet shortfalls and consumers are becoming more aware of how to conserve water especially in the country.

The federal government has announced an intention to build a new dam while also expanding the storage capacity of some existing dams which has inflamed environmentalists.

Image credit - Jeremy Piper

A more novel approach has been adopted by the NSW state government which is using an electromagnet tethered to a helicopter in the hope of detecting groundwater up to 500 metres below the surface. What’s more, they’re confident of discovering water as the same method recently worked in South Africa.

Yet for all the announcements and interesting approaches, NSW unfortunately remains parched. After multiple droughts and plenty of evidence suggesting climate change, land clearing and unsuitable water usage were driving drought conditions, we’re still no closer to coming up with a solution.

Recently commenting on the ABC’s Q&A program devoted to a discussion on the drought, the Australia Institute’s Maryanne Slattery said water reforms, including the water market and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) have "made things worse".

"I think that governments have exacerbated this drought," Ms Slattery said.

How you can help Australian farmers? You can start by signing the petition asking the Australian government to create a Natural Disaster fund. 

Video: DAY ZERO | The Australian Drought Crisis - By Kaptor Projects. Executive Producer Matt Creighton and Producer Liam Coleman. 

Lead image credit - Jeremy Piper

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