09/28/2011 - Water is a vital, precious resource everywhere, but perhaps nowhere more valuable than in arid Australia.
In the agricultural belt of southeastern Australia, an area called the Murray-Darling Basin, farmers and ranchers are up in arms about a government plan to dramatically cut their water use. The plan comes after a 12-year drought and decades of river diversions took a huge toll on the environment.
“It’s a pretty simple equation in the Australian Outback: the limiting factor on growth is almost always water,” said wildlife biologist Barry Traill with the Pew Environment Group. He took me on a drive through the Outback and explained how this area gets its scarce water. It’s a boom and bust cycle. Ranchers and nature rely on floods that originate 500 miles north in tropical Australia.
“The floods will come through and they’ll keep going for 500 or 800 miles south of us, and they’ll go into country, which has had, in many cases, no rain, no effective rain, for years,” said Traill. “You get these lush green flood plains, several kilometers wide, iridescent green floods plains, going thru these harsh, red sand dune desert. It’s an extraordinary contrast.”
Listen to the audio segment or read the full article, The Battle for Australia's Water - Part II, on Public Radio International's The World Web site.