The price of water?

Wed, Nov 12, 2008

Australian Climate Change

What a weird world we now live in!

Whilst the UK drowns in buckets of rain, it seems that Southern Australia has recently declared its worst drought on record. For the past decade, Australia has been experiencing very dry summers and many gardeners are feeling the strain as this extremely sad story reveals:

Australia’s first known case of murder due to “water rage,” a dispute over a suburban man’s water usage led to him being beaten to death in front of his home.
According to police, 66-year-old Ken Proctor was watering the lawn in front of his home in Sydney on October 31 at approximately 5:30 p.m. when a passerby made a comment to him about wasting water. Proctor then turned his hose on the other man, who knocked him to the ground and began to punch and kick him. The attacker was tackled by two bystanders, including an off-duty policeman, and an ambulance came for Proctor. Proctor later died in the hospital after experiencing a massive heart attack.

Dr David Jones, Head of Climate Analysis at the Australian Bureau of Meterology, has said the drought affecting south-west Western Australia, south-east South Australia, Victoria and northern Tasmania “is now very severe and without historical precedent”.


NASA Image

Green areas indicate where plants are growing and brown is where vegetation is sparse or growing slower than average.

Melbourne appears to have been worse hit, as Dr Jones explains:

“If one looks at the history of data we have for Melbourne, we have rainfall records going 150 years. We simply have not seen anything like what we currently have, not even close. The previous longest dry for Melbourne was the six years from 1979 to 1984. Starting in 1997 we have had 11 years, nearly 12 years” of dry conditions.”

Victoria has also recorded the driest year in history. In April, vines were removed from Merbein vineyard due to the drought.The current dry started in 1996 in Victoria, while the Murray Darling Basin moved into drought in late 2001.

Dr Jones says temperatures are running at about one degree “above any previous comparable drought. That is substantially hotter, and that one degree is a global warming signal.”He said the data suggests that for every one degree of warming, there is a 15 per cent decline in run-off, or river flow, in the Murray Darling Basin.

” Victoria had had “the driest multi-year period on record, but also by far the hottest” and that rainfall deficiencies were the largest on record.In the last 12 years we have now missed out on two years of rainfall, which is an extraordinary result,” he said.

“Across Victoria as a whole, if you add up how much rainfall has been missed in 12 years, it is now up around 1300mm or four feet of rainfall, a very, very large rainfall deficit.”

Dr Jones concludes with “These numbers are what we are seeing. They are perhaps larger than we would have expected from a theoretical basis, but it is clearly a whole sequence of changes are happening in our catchment in response to  climate change,” Dr Jones said.,25197,24474671-11949,00.html

Water is our most precious commodity and in the future is likely to replace the value that we currently credit to wealth and material possessions.

Please do post comments on this site if you are an Australian visitor to my blog wanting to share your personal experiences of how you are coping with such extreme conditions. Or, e-mail me at [email protected]

This post was written by:

- who has written 872 posts on My Climate Change Garden.

I am not an experienced gardener - more of an enthusiastic amateur who learns by trial and error and who is keen to "manage" the effects of shifting weather patterns on my garden. Writing this blog is my passion and it has evolved over 12 years to inspire engagement with climate change outside our back doors, in our personal gardens and green spaces. My mission is to fertilise and expand this platform to grow a community of global gardeners communicating about the effects of climate change on our plants and exploring how each individual can make small changes in our lives to become more sustainable. The future of our gardens and #OurPlanet is in our hands - please plant your own seeds for our collective sustainable future.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Sue (Catmint) Says:

    Dear T.G., I really appreciate this post. I hadn’t heard that particular sad story, but I’m not surprised. Water is a hot political and controversial issue, pipelines are being constructed and salination plants are being planned – and all vigorously opposed by many people. The ongoing drought has led to many suicides in the rural areas. Melbourne gardeners have strict limits, only allowed to water from 6-8am twice a week. Many gardeners now have water tanks, although lately some people question their value if it doesn’t rain. To my disgust, some wealthy people (including one friend of mine) pay heaps of money to access the groundwater underneath their property which they then use to water their lawns and flowers. Even before these water restrictions I had been attempting only to grow things that don’t need extra water, once they are established. I expect this will get harder and harder. Another hot dry summer is predicted, and I feel nervous about what will survive. But many plants are sufficiently hardy, and of course it is very important to mulch and nurture the soil.