July 10, 2008


Drought in Australia's "Food Bowl" worsening  



A drought in Australia's Murray Darling Basin is getting worse, with inflows in June the lowest on record and autumn inflows only just above the record lows of 2007, the government's Murray Darling Basin Commission reported Thursday (July 10, 2008).


Inflows in June of 95 gigaliters were down from the previous record low of 106 gigaliters in June 2006, less than half the 220 gigaliters inflows in June last year and just 14 percent of a long-term average, the commission reported.


Inflows in autumn, March through May, of 200 gigaliters were just above the record low of 195 gigaliters last year and about one quarter of the long-term average, it reported.


Wendy Craik, the commission's chief executive, said that unless there is significant rain and runoff, the prospects for irrigation and the environment in 2008-09 are grim.


The basin, which covers about a seventh of Australia, is broadly located in the nation's southeast and is often described as the nation's food bowl.


It is the heartland of Australia's irrigated agriculture and contains large areas devoted to broadacre dryland winter cropping areas, including wheat and livestock production, notably sheep and cattle.


The most recent seasonal climate outlook from the government's Bureau of Meteorology shows a shift in the odds towards drier than average conditions across the basin July through September, including higher yielding catchments of the upper Murray River and its tributaries.

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