Drought said to threaten water supply of more than a million Australians
I guess this is why it rains nearly every day where I am -- even though winter is supposed to be the dry season. We've just had a shower as I write this, in fact. Dam levels throughout Australia are in fact rising. The only adverse thing happening is that too much water is being drawn off the Murray/Darling river system for long-term sustainability. In 1901 (Yes. 1901, not 2001) the Murray was just a chain of waterholes so it is very variable naturally. For a laugh, compare the report below with the one immediately following it
More than a million people in Australia could face drinking water shortages if the country's seven-year drought does not break soon, a government report has warned. The bleak report into the future of the Murray-Darling river system found the situation had become "critical".
The system, which runs from Queensland in the country's north east to Victoria in the south, irrigates Australia's vast food bowl and drinking water to more than a million people. However, due to rising temperatures and a desperate lack of rain, inflows to the basin are at their lowest ever recorded levels. Climate change minister Penny Wong yesterday said the Murray Darling was "in real trouble". "We've had very low inflows, we've had a very dry June and the focus absolutely has to be critical human needs, that is the needs of the million-plus people who rely on the basin for drinking water," she said. "It just reminds us, yet again, the way in which this country is particularly vulnerable to climate change."
Australia is in the grip of the worst drought in a century, with water restrictions in place in most major cities and a forecast for more dry weather. The report said the parched Murray-Darling system should provide enough drinking water until the middle of next year. But the document, compiled by senior federal and state government officials, warned there could be difficulties supplying drinking water after that if rains did not arrive. "Work is continuing on contingency planning in order to protect critical human needs for 2009-10 should inflows remain at or below record minimums through winter," it said. "Governments would also need to consider how they would set aside water early to protect critical human needs for 2009-10."
More than 40 per cent of Australia's food comes from the Murray-Darling Basin. It would take years of above-average rainfall to return water levels in the basin to normal, but "the long dry" is expected to continue. A recent report predicted a tenfold increase in the frequency of heat waves as climate change continues to push up temperatures on the continent.
Brisbane's dams fill as the chill bites
(Brisbane is Australia's third-largest city)
WATER kept flowing into Brisbane's dams yesterday as the Somerset reservoir hit 89.19 per cent - the most it has held in the last seven years. Continuing showers and strong southwesterly winds brought chilly conditions to the southeast and border regions, with a minimum of 7C and a top of just 16C predicted for Brisbane today.
Minimum temperatures were below average over most of the state. Cooktown in the far north plummeted to 12C, which was six below normal, while Nambour on the Sunshine Coast was 6C (3C below average) and the Gold Coast dipped to 7C (5C below average). Queensland's coldest recorded temperature was at Stanthorpe, where temperatures dropped to -3C.
Weather Bureau forecaster Bryan Rolstone said it was difficult to say whether the cold snap would force temperatures to record-breaking levels. "But we're expecting strong blustery winds, showers, sleet and a possibility of small hail in some places which sounds more like Victorian than Queensland weather," Mr Rolstone said. Brisbane's record maximum low was 10.6C in 1938. Stanthorpe's coldest July day was in 1984 when the temperature managed only a maximum of 2.9C.
Weatherzone meteorologist Matt Pearce said there was a prospect of snow down to 900m in NSW and in Queensland's border regions. Rain was expected to clear early in the southeast today, although there remained the possibility of showers and thunder.
The aggregate water level in Somerset, North Pine and the huge Wivenhoe Dam was 40.53 per cent yesterday after five days of scattered falls. Dam managers hope it might hit 41 per cent by the end of the week. As with previous good flows, most of the water has come from the Stanley River catchment, part of which rises in the wet Sunshine Coast hinterland. SEQWater spokesman Mike Foster said North Pine was on 35.42 per cent and Wivenhoe 25.61 per cent. "It's not bad given this time last year we were on an aggregate 16.5 per cent," Mr Foster said.
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