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Drought in SE Australia scientifically proven

  • 28 August 2009
  • Written by 
  • Published in Climate
Although the conclusion is not unexpected, the analysis by a CSIRO researcher has scientifically shown that the 15 years of drought conditions in southeast Australia has been brought about by “diminishing water availability” that started between 1993 and 1996 and continues today.


Senior CSIRO research scientist Albert van Dijk studied thirty years of ground-based and space-based data with respect to the water resources of Australia.

According to the August 26, 2009 CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) news release “Water scarcity started 15 years ago,” Dr. van Dijk stated, “The data shows the first signs of diminishing water availability in Australia appeared somewhere between 1993 and 1996 when the rate of water resource capture and use started to exceed the rate of streamflow supply.”

He announced these results at the Sixth International Scientific Conference on the Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX) on Wednesday, August 26, 2009.

The Conference was held in Melbourne, Australia, between August 24 and 28.

The analysis is the first comprehensive study made on water resources covering the entire area of Australia. As such, the study is expected to add much to Australia’s knowledge about its water resources and the future trends of water availability in the country.

The study performed by Dr. van Dijk is part of joint effort between CSIRO Water for a Healthy Country Flagship and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
 
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Dr. van Dijk added, “If this technology had been available to us in the mid-1990s, the onset of dry conditions could have been detected earlier."

And, "The results of the study underscore the importance of good water information for water resource planning.”

The CSIRO article also said, “The data also reveals that the impact of the drought on Australia’s current water resources is broadly consistent with both the historical trend and climate change predictions.”

Dr. van Dijk commented on the historical record of water in Australia.

He states, “Parts of Australia have had record low rainfall the last several years, but our records aren’t very long and the drought may still be within natural limits."

And, "What makes the situation appear so much worse is that the sixties and seventies were quite wet. That’s also when we started capturing river flows in large reservoirs for our growing cities and irrigated agriculture. In retrospect it appears we have become over-reliant on what is now looking like ‘bonus’ rainfall during that time.”

A figure of water variability (increases and decreases) across Australia is shown at ScienceImage: Water scarcity started 15 years ago.


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