Jun. 20, 2008
For more than seven years, Australia has been suffering a severe drought, with water inflows into the nation's rivers at record lows and tough irrigation restrictions. The Murray-Darling river basin produces 41% of Australia's agriculture and provides US $21 billion worth of agricultural exports to Asia and the Middle East, including rice and corn.
The government wants to secure water supplies and repair ailing rivers with a US $12.2 billion, 10-year water plan and a deal to buy river water back from irrigators. While the government deferred consideration of a scientific report into the crisis until November, ecologists warned that November will be too late, with much of the river system virtually dead by then.
Climate scientists have warned that Australia is suffering accelerated climate change; temperatures are expected to rise by about 1 degree Celsius by 2030 with rainfall forecast to decrease by up to 20% by 2070 in the most populous southeast.