Forum: The Coming Mega Drought; January 2012; Scientific American Magazine; by Peter H. Gleick, Matthew Heberger; 1 Page(s)
Australia experienced the worst and most consistent dry period in its recorded history over much of the past decade. The Murray River failed to reach the sea for the first time ever in 2002. Fires swept much of the country, and dust storms blanketed major cities for days. Australia’s sheep population dropped by 50 percent, and rice and cotton production collapsed in some years. Tens of thousands of farm families gave up their livelihoods. The drought ended in 2010 with torrential rains and flooding.
Australia’s Millennium Drought is a wake-up call for residents of the drought-plagued southwestern U.S. and for all of us. What happened in Australia could happen in the U.S., with devastating consequences to the region and to the nation. We can avert the worst, however, if we pay attention to Australia’s experience and learn the right lessons.