Australian state preparing for drought after driest June

Source: Xinhua| 2017-07-19 10:37:09|Editor: Zhou Xin
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MELBOURNE, July 19 (Xinhua) -- The Victorian government is preparing for the state to enter into drought after an unusually dry winter, it was revealed on Wednesday.

A new threshold introduced by Premier Daniel Andrews means that Victoria begins preparations for drought when dams sink to 60 percent full, compared to the previous threshold of 54.1 percent.

As of Wednesday, Victoria's dams were at 62 percent capacity, down from 71.2 percent at the start of 2017.

The water levels have dropped since Melbourne experienced its driest June since records began in 1900 with much of Victoria receiving 20 percent less rainfall than average.

July has also been unseasonably dry with 27 millimeters of rain falling in Melbourne to date compared to the monthly average of 71 millimeters.

If the dam levels fall below the 60 percent threshold, Victoria's 19 billion U.S. dollar desalination plant will be used for the first time to prevent a drought.

A spokesperson for the Andrews government said that the plant, which has produced three percent of water currently in dams, was "an investment in water security."

"The desalination plant is a crucial part of the Victorian water grid, which provides water security and insurance against the effects of population growth and climate change," the spokesperson said on Wednesday.

"It guarantees we have a rainfall-independent, large-scale water supply to support catchments, our communities and our water-dependent industries."

The desalination plant is capable of producing 150 gigaliters of clean water every year, though plans to increase its capacity to 200 gigaliters have been flagged.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said it was likely that the dry period would continue in to spring.

"Following the very dry conditions in June and modest rainfall totals this month, soil moisture is below average across much of the state, and most notably in the catchment regions to the east," a BOM spokesperson said.

"In general, the recent conditions and outlook are consistent with lower flows into dams in the coming two months."