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article imageAustralian towns prepare for the day when the water is gone

By Karen Graham     Sep 28, 2019 in Environment
Guyra - The little town of Guyra - population 2,000 - in eastern Australia lies next to a freshwater lagoon just half a day’s drive from Sydney, but its drinking water is due to run dry in 400 days’ time.
Locals in the town have been trucking in water and a pipeline has been constructed to the local dam. There is even talk of drilling for a fresh supply of water - if it can be found.
For Guyra's mayor, Simon Murray, the bigger worry is that his town is not alone. “A lot of towns are forecast to run out at the same time - and then where do you get the water from?” he said, referring to an area that is home to some 180,000 people, according to Reuters.
From sunny Queensland, all the way to Sydney, more than a dozen small towns are facing their own "Day Zero" within months, a water crisis reminiscent of the taps being turned off in Cape Town and Chennai. For towns already deep into the water crisis, a domino-effect of humongous proportions is beginning to hit the region.
Cattle feeding on a drought-affected farm near Armidale in regional New South Wales
Cattle feeding on a drought-affected farm near Armidale in regional New South Wales
William WEST, AFP
Some farmers are not planting a crop this season, while a few others have found land to use in areas less-effected. Authorities will have no choice but to truck-in water at a monthly cost of Aus$1 million ($690,000) -- a temporary reprieve, at best. Shops are on the brink of shutting, and desperation has led to several instances of water theft across the region.
Australia - the "Sunburnt Country"
Australia has long been used to being hit by floods and drought, quite often severe. But scientists say weather extremes are exacerbated by climate change, which Australians -- even some in these conservative bush areas -- increasingly acknowledge.
At the same time, the Australian government, in an effort to support the coal mining and exports sector, has rejected calls to make fighting climate change a priority on the grounds this would undermine economic growth.
Pacific islands have criticised Australia for not doing enough to rein in its reliance on coal
Pacific islands have criticised Australia for not doing enough to rein in its reliance on coal
The sunburnt country also has a history of making poor choices when it comes to protecting its water - treating water as if its an infinite resource. Now, Australia joins other nations who have worked to survive their own "Day Zero," like Brazil’s Sao Paulo in 2015, India’s sixth-largest city, Chennai, in mid-2018, and South Africa's Cape Town in 2018.
Scientists from the Grantham Institute at the Imperial College in London and the University of Cape Town, who co-authored a paper on Cape Town’s Day Zero, say that climate change will make water shortages more common in cities around the world.
“Changing shifts in rain patterns are a major cause of water shortages and, as the climate changes, droughts and heatwaves will be more likely,” explains Robbie Parks, research postgraduate and co-author of the paper.
“Water is treated as an infinite resource, but it only takes two or three dry seasons to trigger a catastrophic drought – Cape Town is a prime example of that – so there needs to be a huge change in how water is managed.”
While droughts are not uncommon in Australia  the length and severity of the dry conditions have dep...
While droughts are not uncommon in Australia, the length and severity of the dry conditions have depleted farmers' food stocks
Saeed KHAN, AFP/File
Weighing economic growth vs economic disaster
Australia's Conservative government, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, while not attending last week's UN climate meeting, says that UN critics have overlooked Australia’s work on curbing emissions and his country would meet its Paris emissions reduction goals.
He points out that he has pledged A$100 million ($68 million) in extra funding to support drought-stricken farmers. However, the country's Central bank has warned the drought is weighing on Australia’s economic growth.
Farm production is forecast to decline by 5 percent to A$59 billion ($40.4 billion) in 2019–20, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).
More about Australia, Drought, Water crisis, Climate crisis, No water
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