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The Australian National University

Research materials

Welcome to the ANU Water Initiative Drought Information database. This is a collection of both recent and historic work focusing on drought in Australia.

Climate change and science

Australian crop and livestock report 2007  
Contribution to the 2007 drought update by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Abstract: Assesses the Impact of Drought and decreased rainfall on Australian winter crop production in 2007-2008 across Australia. The report also outlines the outlook for 2008 summer crop production and livestock affected by drought.

Managing farm risk – The role of preparing for drought
Vernon Topp and Walter Shafron, 2006, Report to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resources Economics.

Abstract: ABARE has reviewed existing information on the nature and extent of
drought preparedness in Australia, and has undertaken additional surveys to further explore the issue. The analyses discussed in this report are based on observations of actual farmer behavior before, during and after the most recent drought in mainland Australia, along with information from farm managers on their preferred approaches to preparing for and managing droughts.

Global warming contributes to Australia’s worst drought
A report by Professor David Karoly, Dr James Risbey, and Anna Reynolds for the World Wildlife Fund Australia, 2003.

Abstract: The Report highlights the effects of human-induced global warming on the Australian drought of 2002, outlining effects on temperature, rainfall patterns and impacts on vegetation. It also covers the economic impacts of drought and recommendations for future response from government.

A review of recent climate variability and climate change in southeastern Australia
Published in the International Journal of Climatology in conjunction with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, 2008.

Abstract: Southeastern Australia has suffered from 10 years of low rainfall from 1997 to 2006. A protracted dry spell of this severity has been recorded once before during the 20th century, but current drought conditions are exacerbated by increasing temperatures. Impacts of this dry decade are wide-ranging, so a major research effort is being directed to better understand the region’s recent climate, its variability and climate change. This review summarizes the conditions of these 10 years and the main mechanisms that affect the climate.

Murray system drought update September 2008
Murray Darling Basin Commission Murray System Drought Update September 2008.
The update covers relevant issues relating to drought affecting the Murray System, including analysis of rainfall and system inflows, system storage, the Murray system environment, basin-wide diversions and future outlook updates.


Comparison of suitable drought indices for climate change impacts assessment
Published in the International Journal of Climatology in conjunction with CSIRO Land and Water and CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, 2008.

Abstract: Two drought indices are compared for their potential utility in resource management. The Rainfall Deciles-based Drought Index is a measure of rainfall deficiency while the Soil-Moisture Deciles-based Drought Index is a measure of soil-moisture deficiency attributed to rainfall and potential evaporation. Both indices were used to assess future drought events over Australia under global warming attributed to low and high greenhouse gas emission scenarios (SRES B1 and A1F1 respectively) for 30-year periods centred on 2030 and 2070.

Drought: exceptional circumstances
A 2008 joint report between the CSIRO and Australain Bureau of Meteorology.

Abstract: An assessment of the impact of climate change on the nature and frequency of exceptional climatic events. This review includes three separate assessments.The first examines the implications of future climate change for the current exceptional circumstances (EC) standard of a one in 20-25 year event and is provided in this report. The others cover economic and social aspects.

Government policy

Inquiry into Government Drought Support
Productivity Commission Issues Paper, 2008, Commissioners Mike Woods, Neil Byron and Bob Granger.

Abstract: The Productivity Commission has been asked to undertake a public inquiry into government arrangements for drought support, reporting by the end of February 2009. The terms of reference state that Australian ministers for primary industries consider that current approaches to drought and exceptional circumstances are no longer the most appropriate in the context of a changing climate. The ministers further agreed that drought policy must be improved to create an environment of self-reliance and preparedness and to encourage the adoption of appropriate climate change management practices.

Drought – NSW Parliamentary Briefing Paper
Briefing paper No 14/02 prepared by Stewart Smith for the NSW Parliamentary Library Research Service, 2002.

Abstract: Drought in Australia is a natural occurrence, and there are a wide range of perceptions in the community about the nature and significance of drought. However, severe drought can have a debilitating effect on rural and regional communities and represent a major cost to the wider community. This paper discusses: the causes of drought; policy responses to drought; the drought currently affecting New South Wales; and reviews the responses of the Commonwealth and State Governments to the present drought

Squandering the Future: Climate change, policy failure and the water crisis in Australia
David Mercer, Linda Christesen, Michael Buxton, School of Social Science and Planning, RMIT University, 2007, Published in Futures.

Abstract: Since European arrival (1788), statist developmentalism has driven natural resource use in Australia. Despite evidence of a systematic decline in the quality of Australia’s ecosystems, policy-making still reflects the exploitative paradigm upon which statist developmentalism relies. This paper will draw on recent policy changes within the water sector in Australia as a case study, allowing the authors to consider the types of social, economic and ecological consequences that can come from statist developmentalism.

National Drought Policy Review
An overview of the Federal Government National Drought Policy Review by the NSW Farmers Association.
Includes an outline of the main components of each assessment and key dates.


Trajectories in Australian Water Policy
Karen Hussey and Steve Dovers, 2006, the National European Union Centre and the Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies, Australian National University, Published in Universities Council on Water Resources Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education.

Abstract: This paper discusses past and current Australian water policy and management, with comparison to trends in the European Union and United States. Particular attention is paid to the policy directions made explicit in Australia’s National Water Initiative for the period 2004-2014.

Developing Equitable and Affordable Responses to Drought in Australia
Linda Botterill and Brad Chapman, 2002 Discussion Paper for the Centre for Economic Policy Research, The Australian National University.

Abstract:Under the National Drought Policy which has been in place since 1992, support is provided by the Commonwealth Government predominantly in two forms: interest rate subsidies to assist farm businesses and a special welfare payment, the Exceptional Circumstances Relief Payment. Support is available under these programs only to farmers in geographically defined areas which have been declared to be experiencing ‘exceptional circumstances’. This paper describes a number of problems with this approach and suggests an alternative form of drought relief based on the Higher Education Contribution Scheme, which is more equitable between farmers, less regressive in its impact on tax payers, and less open to politicization.

Uncertain Climate: A recent history of drought policy in Australia
Linda Courtenay Botterill, School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Australian National University, 2003 article published in Australian Journal of Politics and History.

Abstract: Since 1992, Australia has had in place a National Drought Policy based on principles of self-reliance and risk management. This policy reflects the neo-liberal economic policy approach, which has dominated Australian policy since the 1980s. Severe drought tests the will of policy makers to hold to this policy line as agrarian sentiments are stirred and political pressure is brought to bear to change policy settings. This article describes the history of drought policy in Australia and the challenges facing policy makers.


Key issues in Australian Policy
Paper by Professor John Quiggin, Australian Research Council Federation Fellow, for the Risk and Sustainable Management Group, School of Economics and School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland 2007.

Abstract: The paper is organised in six sections. In Section 1, the current problems of drought and climate change are described. Section 2 deals with supply options, including new dams, desalination and recycling as well as more exotic proposals such as long-distance pipelines. Section 3 describes the problems of the Murray– Darling Basin and responses including the National Water Initiative. Section 4 describes the problems of urban water supply, and discusses the relative roles of prices and quantitative controls such as water restrictions in matching supply and demand. Section 5 deals with one of the most contentious policy options, that of allowing trade between rural and urban water users. Section 6 addresses the related issue of environmental flows.

Social and Economic Impacts of Drought on Farm Families and Rural Communities
Submission to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Government Drought Support, 2008, Prepared by Ben Edwards, Matthew Gray and Boyd Hunter for the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Abstract: The material in this submission is drawn from a preliminary analysis of data from the Regional and Rural Families Survey and provides estimates of the social and economic impact of drought on families in regional and rural Australia. In order to identify the most appropriate, effective and efficient responses that could be taken by Commonwealth, state and territory governments to build self-reliance and preparedness to manage drought, it is important to understand the social and economic impacts of drought.

Social impacts of Drought
A report to NSW Agriculture by Margaret Alston and Jenny Kent, 2004, Center for Rural Social Research, Charles Sturt University.

Abstract: This report addresses three major research questions; What are the social impacts of drought for farm families? What are the social impacts of drought for small towns? What are the impact for businesses in small towns consequent on the drought?

Coping with a Crisis: Human services in time of drought
Margaret Alston and Jenny Kent, 2004, article published in Rural Society.

Abstract: Dr Ben Edwards and Dr Matthew Gray from the Australian Institute of Family Affairs have conducted an investigation on the individual and family well-being of Australian rural and regional families in drought.

“Her beauty and her terror – the wide brown land for me!”
The Australian Institute of Family Affairs Seminar Series

Abstract: Dr Ben Edwards and Dr Matthew Gray from the Australian Institute of Family Affairs have conducted an investigation on the individual and family well-being of Australian rural and regional families in drought.
“To improve our understanding of the impact of drought on families and communities in rural and regional Australia and the implications for policy, 8000 rural and regional individuals were surveyed between September to December 2007, stratified according to the level of drought in the area.”


Updated:  7 March 2011/Responsible Officer:  ANUWI Co-Chair /Page Contact:  Crawford Webmaster