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Australia Drought - The Big Dry

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on 11 April 2014

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Transcript of Australia Drought - The Big Dry

Allocation of irrigation water to some farms was cut, meaning crops could not be grown. This was to ensure water was available for drinking and washing in urban area's.
Production of irrigated crops, including cotton lint, wine grapes and rice was reduced.
Harvest of were decimated.
Rice production fell
Annual crops were not planted if there wasn't enough water to support them.
Farm incomes shrank, leading to financial ruin for farmers, who had debt after years of drought.
10 o00 farming families were forced to leave the MDB.
The Big Dry
3 million
people who rely on the
had their water allocations limited.
Increasing ground water salinity has affected over
35 towns,
damaging buildings and driving down property values.
$10 million
has been invested into mental health schemes initiated by the government.
Rural communities abandoned and local services such as schools and shops closed because there were no longer enough people left to support them. Eg communities in
New South Wales
Rural suicide rate soared.
More food needed to be imported so prices rose in supermarkets.
Prices of energy and water soared. Water bills were set to rise by
to pay for new infrastructure to prevent future shortages.
The drought also reduced HEP in
meaning more expensive energy sources were used.
Water restrictions in all major cities. Stages range from
(low restriction) to
(high restriction).
(in NSW) reached stage 5.
there were bans on car washing, garden watering, and people were expected to have four minute showers.
So what is drought?
Loss of vegetation and wildlife
Soil erosion
Declining water quality
Toxic algae; outbreaks in depleted rivers, dams and lakes
Increasing numbers of bushfires and dust-storms
The Snowy Hyrdo Electricity Scheme was forced to rely on an old polluting gas-fired power station to generate most of it's electricity because it had almost run out of water - its reservoirs had dropped to an average of
Lake Corangamite
, in
, to its lowest level in
60 years
. Conservationists are worried about the negative impact of decreasing water levels on wildlife.

"A long period of abnormally low rainfall, especially one that adversely affects growing or living conditions"
The Big Dry
Overview of Australia
The Murray- Darling Basin
What is 'the Big Dry'?
Possible causes
How can you combat drought?
The drought wiped
of the Australian economy in
- affecting Government spending.
of businesses in
were affected.
Rural areas were worst affected - over
one third
of rural businesses reported major impact compared to just
one tenth
in urban areas.
Huge decline in the farming industry.
Money is being spent on water trading and storage schemes, which in short term is expensive, but should be positive in the long term.
Local, national and global market prices have been driven up.
Unemployment levels rose to
above the national average.
more than
23 000
families and
1 500
small businesses have received financial support.
This type of drought is caused when a drop in river or groundwater levels impacts on water supplies. It can be caused by
meteorological drought
or human factors like water abstraction.
The program aims to accelerate the development and uptake of 'smart' technologies and large-scale projects.
The Lake Brewster projects
is just one of many Water Smart Projects.
Agricultural drought is where soil moisture is insufficient to maintain crop growth. This could be caused by
meteorological drought
which are caused by precipitation shortages, soil water deficits or reduced ground water/ reservoir levels.
Australia has a population of over
22 million
and a GDP of
65 642per capita.
The main reasons are
El Nino
, as the extensive warming of the central and eastern
Pacific Ocean
lead to a major shift in weather patterns across the
, and affected the runoff in catchments serving all major water supply systems in eastern
As well as the decline in the number of rain-bearing low-pressure systems along the
New South Wales(NSW)
Scientist's have also made a link with a shift in the
interdecadal Pacific oscillation
. It shifted from a phase associated with moist, onshore airflow in
, to one that resulted in mostly drier offshore airflow, leading to a drier state.
However there was also some evidence that ozone depletion, increased greenhouse gases and the
Indian ocean Dipole
could have contributed to the drought. The Indian ocean Dipole is a naturally occurring phenomenon which oscillates between positive, negative and neutral phrases, normal wet conditions are negative phrases and droughts are positive phrases.
Water Smart Australia
Australia's agriculture earns
$155 billion
a year, with
of the country covered with
135 997
It is the
largest exporter of wine which accounts for
$5.5 billion
of the economy each year.
The area of the country is just under
3 000 000 sq miles
Australia has
6 states
New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria
Western Australia
The climate of
is influenced by the
Indian Ocean Dipole
El Nino-Southern Oscillation
The North experiences monsoons while the south-west has a Mediterranean climate and the south-east is temperature.
This type of drought is caused by decreased rainfall. This is area specific, as one way of defining it is to count the number of rain free days, so it is going to differ for each region.
This is caused when demands for economic goods (water, fish, HEP) exceeds the supply available, as a result of weather related shortfall.
Factors influencing the impacts of drought
Severity of the event
The big dry is the worst drought on record, rainfall in June 2008 was the lowest in 117 years.
The Murray-Darling Basin has been in drought since 2001 and the water levels are so low it would take years of high rainfall for it to return meaning the impacts are ongoing.

Level of economic development
Australia is a rich county which has more ability to cope with the impacts of a drought.
The MDB is responsible for 34% of Australia's agricultural production, so the drought is having a huge impact on the Australian economy.

Vulnerability of the affected population
Poorer people are more affected since they cannot afford the high prices of food.
The reliance of farming for many Australians means they struggle to water their crops.
Political Responses
The government has introduced new rules, guidelines and educational programmes such as the labelling schemes, where products are labeled showing their water efficiency.
The National Plan for Water Security
It is predicted that the amount of water flowing into the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) will decrease further, and there is evidence rainfall is declining.
The government will invest $10 billion over 10 years to improve water management.
Modernising irrigation methods.
Addressing over allocation and reforming the management of the MDB.
Upgrading water information.
Repairing and replacing drains from the Great Artisan Basin.
Identifying key ecosystems in Northern Australia to make sustainable.
Social Responses
Many regions in Australia have had temporary and permanent water restrictions. These include water restrictions such as a ban on watering lawns, washing vehicles, cleaning windows and filling swimming pools.
Over 500 sewage treatment plants recycle their treated water, and many homes have a drinking supply and a recycled supply for watering gardens etc.
Drought-tolerant plants
are being developed.
Crop and pasture management
for conserving water.
Precision farming
by using satellite information for farmers chose where to put crops.
Global positioning systems
on tractors from accurate sowing.
Changing farming
Economic Responses
Physical Responses
, a desalination plant has been built that provides
of the water. It works by filtering, treating and desalinating the salt from seawater. It is then mixed into the public water supply. The plant is powered by a sustainable source of energy. A disadvantage of this scheme is the high cost of the desalination plant.
The government has set up direct economic assistance for those farmers, businesses and rural communities that are dependent on agriculture. In
, they provided over
$1000 million
Another scheme involves providing exit grants to those farmers in areas of Australia where farming certain crops cannot be sustained (cotton crops) up to
$170 000
along with help to relocate and retrain. This scheme doesn't always work as many farmers reject the grant due them believing they are abandoning a family tradition.
Also, the government is funding research into strategies to combat the impacts of drought. Cloud seeding involves dispersing substances such as silver iodide into clouds which should induce rainfall. A problem with this is it requires clouds, which limits the use.
Some more schemes involve water-conserving agricultural techniques and genetically modifying plant to become drought resistant.
, Australia experienced wet weather due to
La Nina
. In 2003, this switched to a prolonged drought which has been the worst ever recorded.
The average rainfall in many states of
Southern Australia
were the second driest since the
along with the highest temperatures.
, the drought eases as heavy rains fell on
. Also, the Darling river flowed for the first time in a year.
saw the wettest spring on record in
West Australia
dams registered the lowest inflows on record.
The 'Big Dry' was officially declared as over on the
27th April, 2012
The Murray-Darling basin is situated in
south-eastern Australia and stretches south
from the state of
Covering most
New South Wales
state and some of
state. The basin is named after the
two main rivers, the
Murray river
, acting as a
border between


, and the
Darling river
, running southwards through


The basin is the size of France and Spain combined, and gets very little rainfall.
The rivers in the basin are slow-flowing.
There is about
13,000 gigalitres
of flow within the basin, and around
of this is used for agriculture, domestic supply and industrial use.
The basin is home to almost
2 million
people, around
of which are farmers, supplying
of Australia's agricultural produce; cotton, rice, vegetables and fruits to name a few.
The area supplies roughly
of Australia's water supply
This picture summaries South Australia's main climatic drivers.
Full transcript