Australia & New Zealand: Water deficits ahead for South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales

31 January 2017

The Big Picture
The 12-month composite map (below) indicates exceptional water deficits in South Australia and pockets in Victoria, along with deficits of varying severity in southeastern Queensland, along the coast of New South Wales, western Tasmania, and North Island, New Zealand.

Surpluses are forecast north of Adelaide and near Murweh, Queensland.

More than 83 percent of Queensland, Australia remains in drought and the financial consequences of prolonged drought in the country - particularly in Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales - continue to play out. 

The Queensland Government’s Drought Relief Assistance Scheme has paid AU$77.5 million (US$58.6 million) in the course of the current drought. But even with government safety nets rural debt remains a major concern and some 1600 farmers throughout the country now face the expiration of government support from the Farm Household Allowance scheme.

Apricot growers in South Australia’s Riverland are projecting a 50 percent loss of income attributed to excessive rainfall and hail in what the chair of the South Australian Dried Tree Fruits Association called "Probably the worst [season] I've had as long as I've been in the industry." The effect has rippled through local economies as growers turn away seasonal laborers.

Soil moisture levels are low in the Northland district, North Island, New Zealand – the Northland Regional Council recorded half the average rainfall in December. Without sufficient rainfall soon drought declaration is expected and farmers may have to de-stock.

Forecast Breakdown
The 3-month maps (below) for the same 12-month period show the evolving conditions.

The January through March forecast map indicates widespread and exceptional water deficits in South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales, with moderate to extreme deficits reaching north into Queensland through the Sunshine Coast. Moderate to extreme deficits are also forecast for Northern Territory’s Top End, and moderate deficits are forecast for central Tasmania, and North Island, New Zealand. A scattering of primarily moderate surpluses is expected in an arc across the northern part of the country stretching from the Kimberly Plateau in the west through northeastern Queensland to the coast, picking up in intensity in the east.

The forecast for April through June looks less eventful. Moderate deficits are forecast to emerge across Northern Territory and scattered through Victoria and New South Wales, lightly tracing parts of the Rivers Murray, Darling, and Macquarie. Moderate to extreme deficits are forecast to emerge in much of Tasmania, and both North and South Island, New Zealand.

The final months – July through September – indicate a forecast similar to April through June.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.


Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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