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‘We have to produce more with less’: Unpacking Sydney’s drought

Michael McLaren
Article image for ‘We have to produce more with less’: Unpacking Sydney’s drought

Though our drought-ravaged farmers in the bush have been brutalised by a chronic lack of rainfall, it looks like city-dwellers also haven’t escaped the dry patch.

Sydney has been caught up in its worst drought since 1965, with Government projecting just 83 billion litres of water will fall into the city’s catchment dams this year. This pales in comparison to the previous record low of 136 billion litres back in 1944, raising concern about what lies ahead if the dry spell fails to snap.

“The current storage level of Sydney’s dam is just under 64% and dropping at 0.7% a week,” says Dr Ian Wright from Western Sydney University.

“And it’s completely unknown what the climate is going to deliver to us in the next weeks and months.”

However it’s not just uncooperative weather causing the problem. A lack of rain has compounded with Sydney’s ballooning population and the associated surge in demand for water, exacerbating the shortage.

“We’ve got more population, our capital cities are all increasing, yet Mother Nature may be giving less precipitation.”

“With increasing population and limited supply, are we investing enough? Are we enhancing our water infrastructure? It’s a good question to ask.”

Wright says part of the problem is Australia’s “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. When drought is unfolding in our immediate vicinity, drought-proofing infrastructure and water harvesting policies become a priority. But once the drought breaks, the issue falls off the agenda, leading to reactionary water policy, rather than the preventative vision we need.

“When it’s urgent and front of mind, we think about it and government tends to plan and developments schemes. Then the dam fills and it goes quiet.”

“I think we do get a bit lazy and complacent.”

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Michael McLaren