A record drought–now in its sixth year–is forcing Australia to consider drastic action to preserve its dwindling water supplies. Two rivers that feed the Murray-Darling basin in south-eastern Australia are so low that they barely have enough water for drinking supplies.
The Murray-Darlin basin supplies 40 percent of Australia’s agricultural output, including rice cotton, wine, citrus, olive and almonds, along with livestock.
Prime Minister John Howard has announced that unless there is significant rainfall in the next six to eight weeks, irrigation will be banned in the basin, creating a disaster for the farmers and devastating the harvests.
Environmentalists have blamed the drought on the increasing frequency and severity of drought-causing El Nino weather patterns, caused by global warming. The recent UN climate planel predicted that droughts would be a growing problem for Australia.
Prime Minister Howard has until recently been a skeptic about global warming, but now says that he accepts the science behind climate change.