Running out of water
A couple of months ago, there seemed to be some hope that the record-breaking drought in south-eastern Australia was breaking. There was good rain, and the switch from El Nino to La Nina seemed to be established. Now, it seems, those hopes are gone. The really good rain was confined to coastal areas, most notably Sydney. Temporary water entitlements are now going for $1000 a megalitre, and irrigators are likely to receive something like 5 per cent of their normal allocations.
The water market should do some good in ensuring that water flows where it is most needed, most obviously in keeping tree crops alive. But water is also needed for cities and towns in the Murray-Darling Basin and for Adelaide, so the market will have to be combined with administrative allocation, and there may be a need for emergency measures.
In these circumstances, the last thing we need is the continuing squabbling between Federal and State governments, and within the Federal government between Nationals and Liberals, which has led to only marginal progress under the National Water Initiative. It’s likely that nothing much will happen until after the Federal election and, to be fair, there’s not much that can be done until we see how bad the summer is going to be. But it seems clear that the incoming government will have an emergency on its hands.
Nanni at RSMG has more on the limitations of demand management. This is not going to be an easy problem to solve.
Meanwhile, and relatedly, several species of coral and many seaweeds have been listed as vulnerable or critically endangered as a result of climate change, specifically the increasing frequency and severity of El NiÃ±o events.