Sunday, March 7, 2010

California looks to Australia for lessons on water management

Rebecca Kimitch in the Whittier Daily News (California): Over the past decade, Australia has seen its temperatures rise, its reservoirs plummet, and its crops dry up - the result of the country's worst drought in 100 years. The experience rings familiar to California water managers.

In response to its crisis, Australia has made a $50 billion government investment in water infrastructure, cut water allocations to farmers by 70 percent, and slashed household water use to a quarter of what is used in Californian homes. And it seems to be making it through. So California's water managers are increasingly looking to that country's policies as the future for this state.

"Australia is truly the canary in the coal mine with the most severe impacts of climate change," said Tim Brick, chairman of the Metropolitan Water District board of directors, who represents Pasadena on the board. Brick and a delegation of California water leaders recently visited Australia to learn lessons on water management in the face of drought and climate change.

Australia has always been dry - it is the driest inhabited continent on Earth and has one of the lowest rainfall amounts in the world. Still, it has historically had fertile areas, particularly in the famous Murray-Darling river basin, that have made the country a major agricultural exporter.

But drought and climate change have threatened that, according to Jennifer McKay, professor of business and water law at the University of South Australia.
Advertisement The country has had to make dramatic changes in how it manages its scarce resource, from innovative use of technology to rationing to fundamental changes in how government manages water, McKay said. And, like California, they have faced, and met, increasing demands for environmental protection, she said….

The Los Angeles River running through downtown LA, shot by Downtowngal, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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