Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Australian water crisis could be worse than thought

Reuters: Water shortages facing Australia's drought-hit prime agricultural area might be worse than expected, the government was told on Wednesday, as river towns braced for unprecedented restrictions on water use.

The head of an inquiry into relocating farming to Australia's tropical north, Bill Heffernan, told the Australian Financial Review that the amount of water flowing into the major Murray-Darling river system could be 40 percent less than thought.

However, Australia's Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said there was no reason to panic and Heffernan's concerns about over-counting surface and ground water had been accounted for. "The problem is one we are aware of," Turnbull told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio, adding there was no need for the government to increase a A$3 billion ($2.5 billion) 10-year plan to buy water back from drought-ravaged irrigators.

Prime Minister John Howard in April urged Australians to pray for rain and told farmers along the Murray-Darling they would receive no irrigation water without higher inflows into the rivers in the lead up to winter.

No comments: