The Big Dry Down Under just got a whole lot drier. The first three months of 2009 in the already parched Murray Darling basin had the least amount of rainfall since Australian weather records began 117 years ago.
This massive drainage supports $9 billion in agriculture but has been hammered by what some are calling the worst drought in 1000 years. Authorities in Australia make no bones about the cause of this freaky weather.
“We’ve had big droughts before and big floods before, but what we didn’t have was climate change,” said Rob Freeman, the chief executive of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.
The Murray Darling is home to 2 million people who may not even have enough water to survive in the future. “I’d be loath to say that critical human needs will always be secure”, warned Freeman.
The recent rainfall record was not the only smashed. Water inputs for three-year period ending March 2009 were less than half of the previous record from the great drought of 1943-1946.
The drainage is so dry that Lake Alexandrina at the mouth of the Murray River is now two feet below sea level. The parched lakebed high in natural sulfides is now exposed to air and oxidizing into sulfuric acid – devastating local ecosystems.