Australia & New Zealand: Water deficits to persist in Tasmania, surpluses near Bundaberg

19 December 2017


The 12-month forecast (above) indicates exceptional deficits in South Australia from the Eyre Peninsula to the eastern border with Victoria, in much of Tasmania, and the southwest tip of Western Australia.

Deficits of varying severity, including pockets of exceptional deficits, are forecast for coastal and central Victoria. Moderate to severe deficits are forecast for the eastern Murray-Darling Basin in New South Wales, and in New Zealand. Deficits reaching extreme intensity are forecast for New Caledonia. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast for the center of the country reaching through South Australia.

Moderate to exceptional surpluses are forecast near Bundaberg, Queensland.

Australian wheat exports were cut this month and expectations for coarse grain and canola shipments were downgraded to seven-year-lows, all due largely to drought conditions suffered this year. Sorghum benefited, however, from the same rains which disrupted wheat harvesting in eastern regions. Barley production dropped, causing Australia to lose lucrative exports to the Chinese beer industry.

Parts of New Zealand are experiencing drought conditions, with water restrictions in Wellington and Napier on North Island, in Southland on South Island, and rationing in Waimea Plains, South Island. A 200-hectare (500-acre) scrub fire blazed in Otago mid-December, prompting fire officials to require permits for open air fires.

A record dry November preceded by two consecutive years of abnormally wet spring weather that hampered grass growth has New Zealand dairy farmers struggling. Frontera Cooperative Group has cut milk forecasts this month to reflect virtually no growth over last year. Along with drought, increased regulations and changing dairy markets have contributed to a drop in the net confidence of dairy farmers from 50 percent to 18 percent in the last quarter. One rural economist predicts a rise in the number of dairy farms on the market as farmers' stress levels increase.

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

Exceptional deficits observed in recent months in Australia are forecast to nearly disappear. However, severe to exceptional deficits are expected to persist in much of Tasmania through February 2018, receding somewhat thereafter, and in the far southwestern tip of Western Australia near Busselton through May. The near-term forecast (through February 2018) includes moderate to occasionally extreme deficits along Australia’s southeastern coast from Adelaide through Victoria and moderate deficits for eastern New South Wales. Exceptional surpluses are forecast near Bundaberg, Queensland. In New Zealand, deficits are expected to moderate but persist.

From March through May some moderate to severe deficits will continue to emerge in the southwestern tip of Western Australia, from the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia through Victoria, in Tasmania, and in New Zealand. Surpluses near Bundaberg are expected to become mild.

The forecast for the final months, June through August, indicates moderate deficits across northern Australia and the southwestern tip, and the emergence of extreme deficits in central Tasmania.

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

There are numerous regions around the world where country borders are contested. ISciences depicts country boundaries on these maps solely to provide some geographic context. The boundaries are nominal, not legal, descriptions of each entity. The use of these boundaries does not imply any judgement on the legal status of any territory, or any endorsement or acceptance of disputed boundaries on the part of ISciences or our data providers. 


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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