At first, the drought in Australia was entertaining. Something to discuss over the grill, a reason to take a romantic shower together, or a justification for taking advantage of the sunnier days with your pals at the beach. Camel hysteria stories that spread fear across small communities didn’t help quench anyone’s curiosity.

By the end of last year, attitudes had shifted, maybe because people were beginning to learn that water restrictions had effectively wiped out urban gardening and caused a drop of 25% in agricultural output throughout the nation. Last month, fear ensued as water storage levels dropped to the point that electricity supplies were in danger.


The Big Dry, as it has been dubbed in Australia, has finally ended after nine years of drought. The federal government has proclaimed an end to the drought that has affected most of this enormous nation.

This has the practical effect of ending the last of the targeted subsidies for farmers.

In official parlance, “Exceptional Circumstances” (or “EC”) have ended.

According to Australia‘s agricultural minister, “the seasonal prognosis is better than it has been in many years, and the improving circumstances are a welcome relief for farmers throughout Australia,” Joe Ludwig.

His prediction that the drought’s conclusion would be “a big milestone for agriculture in Australia” was spot-on. Spending on European Union aid has totaled A$4.5 billion ($4.7 billion, £2.9 billion) since 2001. Farmers in need get between $400 and $600 every two weeks. Bundarra and Eurobodalla in New South Wales’s southeast are the last two areas to get the green light.


An extensive past
For example, in 1803, New South Wales saw one of the first known instances of widespread crop failure. Shortly after Australia’s formation in 1901, a second, much more severe drought hit the whole country. In that year, the global sheep population dropped from a little over 100 million to about 50 million.

Only after 1927 did the number of sheep begin to rise again. During World War II, from 1937 to 1947, eastern Australia was again hit worst by one of the longest drought spells on record. Bad droughts occurred again almost about every decade after that. It’s a trend that continues even in the modern day.

Australia’s geology and erratic rainfall patterns make it prone to drought.

Clear sky and little rainfall are the results of its subtropical location and the dry, sinking air that blows there.

This implies that throughout the nation, precipitation is scant and sporadic.

The El Nino climate phenomenon is another factor contributing to the dry spells.

During El Nino, Australia has drier-than-usual conditions and less precipitation overall.

Stresses on the population
Some people in Australia are starting to worry about the future of population growth due to the recent string of droughts.

Sustainable Population Australia, an environmental group, warns that the country may soon reach a point where it has too many people and not enough water.


Their estimate is even more impressive when compared to the existing population count and Australia’s sheer expanse.

The current population is a little under 23 million people in a nation that is nearly the size of the United States, which is home to over 300 million people.

Population-wise, Australia is comparable to Texas.

However, despite having just 23 million people, water supply strains are high.

A resource as important and controversial as water is easily seen via the acrimonious ups and downs of political discourse over the Murray-Darling river basin.

New South Wales, Victoria, and a chunk of Queensland and South Australia are all included in this massive system centered on the Murray and Darling rivers.

For this reason, the recent release of an official investigation concerning its future made international headlines, since tens of millions of people, from farmers and industrialists to indigenous Australians, have a vested interest in the Basin’s water resources.

Just when Australians had resigned themselves to a life without water, the Bureau of Meteorology announced that 2011 had been the wettest year since 1970.

The administration has been able to announce the end of droughts in part because of the consistent assault of rain over the last two years, despite having to cope with the devastating flooding that has followed the deluge.

La Nina, the antipodean cousin of El Nino, is primarily responsible for the recent heavy rainfall.

Especially over the densely populated eastern states, La Nina’s slightly higher western Pacific temperatures led to an increase in precipitation and humidity.

But, as is the case with all things Australian, that’s not the whole story; although the East has been inundated with rain and chilly weather, the West has seen temperatures rise to above 49 degrees.

That’s exactly how things are around here: moderate locals coping with harsh weather.

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