Desperate for solutions, California looks Down Under for advice on surviving the drought.
By Kristen Gelineau and Ellen Knickmeyer,
Associated Press May 25, 2015
FILE – In this July 13, 2002, file photo, sheep wander parched land near a dry reservoir on a Condobolin property, 460 kilometers (285 miles) northwest of Sydney. On the world’s driest inhabited continent, drought is a part of life, with the struggle to survive in a land short on water a constant thread in the country’s history. The U.S. state of California is looking to Australia for advice on surviving its own drought. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)
SYDNEY (AP) — California’s longest and sharpest drought on record has its increasingly desperate water stewards looking for solutions in Australia, the world’s driest inhabited continent.
The struggle to survive with little water is a constant thread in the history of Australia, whose people now view drought as an inevitable feature of the land poet Dorothea Mackellar dubbed “a sunburnt country.”
Four years into a drought forcing mandatory 25 percent water cutbacks this year, Californians have taken a keen interest in how Australia coped with its “Big Dry,” a torturous drought that stretched across the millennium, from the late 1990s through 2012. Australia’s city dwellers had to accept tough water restrictions as cattle collapsed and died in barren fields, monstrous wildfires killed 173 people, and scores of farms went under.
But by the time the rains returned, Australia had fundamentally changed how it handles water, following landmark reforms to more carefully mete out allocations and cutbacks. Today, Australia treats water as a commodity to be conserved and traded. The system also better measures what water is available, and efficiency programs have cut average daily water use to 55 gallons, compared with 105 gallons per day for each Californian.