LONG AUSTRALIAN DROUGHT NOW IMPERILS CITIES
Date: (try to guess!)
(Reuters) – A drought that has parched Australia’s rich eastern farmlands for the last few years is now forcing the nation’s cities to take drastic measures to save water.
Melbourne, the second largest city and the leading commercial center, has sharply restricted the use of water after an unusually dry winter that has left its reservoirs only half full.
Official cars will prowl the streets looking for people illegally watering their lawns or washing their cars. Anyone doing so risks a fine of $950.
The water board has warned the city’s 2.8 million residents that tighter limits will be imposed during the normally dry summer months unless the new measures succeed in cutting consumption.
With no seasonal rain due for almost six months, fears are growing that the drought could turn much of eastern Australia into the sort of dust bowl seen in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
Dust Blankets Town
The first signs appeared recently when the remote mining town of Broken Hill in New South Wales reported its first dust storm in decades.
A cloud of red dust, swept by hot dry winds from the interior deserts, settled over the town, cutting visibility to less than 1,000 yards for several hours.
Sydney, Australia’s largest city, still has adequate water supplies, but a city official said the situation could change if a recent run of above-average temperatures continued and brush fires now smoldering around the suburbs burst out of control.
It is the rural areas, however, that are bearing the brunt of the drought, now in its fourth year in some areas. Prime Minister XXX has described it as the worst in living memory. YYY, president of the National Farmers Federation, said last weekend that the drought had become a disaster for the Australian economy as well as farmers. Government figures show that four out of five farms are affected by the drought.
The federation estimated the value of crops lost in the drought at $2.4 billion. Since economists say that every dollar of farm income generates two dollars in the rest of the economy through related industries, the total loss would be around $7 billion.
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