The NSW government recently declared 100% of NSW is experiencing a drought. Some regions are even under extreme water restrictions, where residents are only allowed three-minute showers.
The NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announced that her government will continue to contact farmers affected by the drought while also “[changing] the loan arrangements to make sure farmers can now get interest-free loans for seven years to pay for actually transporting feed.”
While searching for the cause of this devastating drought, a research team* at the University of Melbourne studied seasonal rainfall patterns in Australia from 800 years back and concluded that this drought “may be the worst in 800 years.”
The team used an extensive network of tree rings, ice cores, corals, and sediment records from across Australia and the adjacent Indian and Pacific Oceans to extend rainfall records across all of the major regions of Australia by between 400 and 800 years.
Their reconstructions also highlight differences between recent extreme drought events and those in earlier centuries. They found that recent shifts in rainfall variability are either unprecedented or very rare over the reconstructed period.
Farmers are now struggling to feed their cattle, with some even forced to sell them off at low prices because of the lack of water. Images are being posted online of cattle starving to the point where their ribs are visible.
Aid is now on its way and major companies are making donations. Millions are being donated to farmers in need along with hay, essential items, and water supplies.Despite the amount being raised for affected farmers, some described these crisis assistance funds as “too little, too late.” If we want to better protect our farmers, change needs to happen. Emergency aid is crucial, but it won’t be enough. It needs to be paired with long-term support to prepare for disasters, allowing farmers to cope with it and then quickly recover from the calamity.