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Australia reeling under dry winter, Victoria preparing for drought

By Ians English

Melbourne, July 19: With Australia reeling under unusually dry winter, the government of Victoria state is preparing to enter into drought, it was revealed on Wednesday.

File photo of Sydney Opera House

According to a new threshold introduced by Premier Daniel Andrews, Victoria begins preparations for drought when dams sink to 60 per cent full, compared to the previous threshold of 54.1 per cent, Xinhua news agency reported.

Victorian dams on Wednesday were at 62 per cent capacity, down from 71.2 per cent at the start of 2017.

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

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

If the dam levels fall below the 60 per cent threshold, Victoria's $19 billion desalination plant will be used for the first time to prevent a drought.

A spokesperson for the Andrews government said the plant, which has produced three per cent 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 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.

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

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

The BOM further said the dry period was likely to continue in the spring.


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