Australia’s Breadbasket Faces Water Squeeze

“CANBERRA—A plan to reduce water use in Australia’s key food-producing region is pitting farmers against environmentalists and throwing the long-term future of the country’s breadbasket into question.

The release of a draft plan to cut the supply of irrigation water in the Murray-Darling Basin, an area about the size of Texas and California combined, has angered both sides. Conservationists say it isn’t enough to restore local river systems and farmers say it could cost thousands of jobs and drive up food prices.

The basin, degraded by drought, state governments’ overallocation of water rights and by rising levels of salinity in the soil, an effect of irrigation, generates about 15 billion Australian dollars (US$14.7 billion) in agricultural produce a year, mostly grains, livestock and fiber. It accounts for 40% of national farm output by value and well over half of irrigated farm production, using nearly all the water held in the basin area.

The new plan, published over the weekend, proposes to recover 2,750 gigaliters of water a year—more than five times the volume found in the Sydney Harbour area—from irrigators in the Murray-Darling Basin. One gigaliter, a billion liters, is enough to fill about 444 Olympic swimming pools.”

Read More: Online Wall Street Journal



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