Thought-Factory.net Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion philosophy.com Junk for code
parliament house.gif
RECENT ENTRIES
SEARCH
ARCHIVES
Commentary
Media
Think Tanks
Oz Blogs
Economic Blogs
Foreign Policy Blogs
International Blogs
Media Blogs
South Australian Weblogs
Economic Resources
Environment Links
Political Resources
Cartoons
South Australian Links
Other
www.thought-factory.net
"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

riesling threat « Previous | |Next »
June 2, 2009

Inside Story is looking to increase (free) subscriber numbers to its newsletter.

You can actually learn things from Inside Story essays. Like this one from Charles Gent, which I personally found quite alarming. More alarming than swine flu or terrorism or Steve Fielding.

Goyder's Line is something of a relic from South Australia's early surveys, drawing an 1865 line between arable and non-arable land bang on the edge of a precious vineyard collection. It's been moving south at an unfair pace and is threatening to take some of the best riesling country with it.

Maggie from The Cook and the Chef must be beside herself.

| Posted by Lyn at 5:39 PM | | Comments (14)
Comments

Comments

It's not the quantity of rain that is crucial--it is the timing of the rain. It rains in autumn, is dry in winter and spring and rains in summer. The pattern of rain are shifting, with the winter and spring rains falling on the sea.

Most of the bigger vineyards in the Clare and Barossa valleys---and Langhorne Creek further south near Lake Alexandrina---are on River Murray water. Maggie Beer is from the Barossa.

The McLaren Vale wineries, south of Adelaide, are on treated affluent from Norlunga.

I'm on the Murray in SA half way down towards the mouth just to the wet/left/west side of Goyder's line.
My neighbour keeps reasonably accurate rain measurements and there is a clear trend visible over the last 15 years.
Total rainfall down overall about 20-30% from the 'old' average of about 270mm to less than 200mm pa for the past 5 years [less than 20mm thus far this year], with a relatively lesser decrease in summer than winter. Thus we are receiving a relatively higher % of our rainfall in the high evaporation season compared to relatively lower [although still a higher figure] in the low evaporation winter.
Hence the effectiveness of the rain is decreasing greater than the absolute figures would suggest.

Some months ago I was talking to farmers in County Victoria [see the map in the link, its just north of the Barossa] and was told that local weather records were showing similar patterns.Rainfall reliability and effectiveness is decreasing and becoming more erratic.

They are worried, they are on the edge of viability as far as their traditional mixed crop/pastoral farming is concerned and they are slowly switching to pastoralism which is less profitable.

To the east of where I live, south and east of the Murray in SA to the Vic border, farming is moving quite rapidly to becoming non-existent. Travel through the area and you will see a much smaller area under crops, more deglected weed infested bare ground, yields are down and the region is suffering depopulation. The process has been slowed a little because grain prices have been so high recently that even lower yields are supporting high incomes but that can change [the local cockies follow the Australian dollar's fortunes closely] and is not reversing the trend just slowing it down.
Of course a lot of this is 'man-made' drought [women are innocent] as a result of injudicious land clearing in the past [over 80% of the region has been cleared], over reliance on artificial fertilizers and so on. As Jared Diamond describes it they have been 'mining' a finite natural resource, the soil, for too long.

All this is part of the background to what I wrote about here recently.
I work, sort of, with a lot of these cockies and I don't know any, once you get away from the river irrigators, who are not acutely aware of climate change and very concerned as to its impact on them. So I find it strange that farmers in the east, if I can believe Barnaby, are still in a state of denial.
There are interesting things going on in the state National party here, I only get rumours but I detect a 'coup de etat' has occurred and that the locals are not happy with the easterners [bloody foreigners] and even less happy with the Liberals, state and federal [the Nats played funny games with their second preferences at the Frome by-election, basically what happened was they they DIDN'T give it directly to the Libs, a few eyebrows were raised].
Or that's the gist of some unconfirmed whispers.

Interesting times, still depressing tho, cos so many just ignore it, the impact of climate change I mean.
They/we will be forced to wake up eventually.

Fred,
You mention land clearing and chemicals as part of the equation. Are those practices starting to change on any significant scale, or am I watching too much TV?

I have the impression that a lot of people are starting to understand that the landscape and soil here can't sustain European flatten and fertilize farming.

Also, it's interesting people associate Barnaby with the east. As far as I can see he's all Qld. Flatten and fertilize is still all the rage up here.

Dr Maarten Stapper was on the Australian Story last Monday. The programme was entitled 'Back To Earth', and he argued for a turn away from chemical based genetic engineering farming favoured by CSIRO--to biological farming. A more organic approach to protect the soil is beginning to happen in the Mallee----dryland farming-- in South Australia.

Some of the top quality wineries in SA adopt an organic approach and conserve water --but the cheap plonk big mass export crowd pretty much mine the soil. Some of the winemakers use rainwater and recycle their water.

It is the lack of water that has been the big problem in SA up to now: ----the Coonawarra region is mining the underground acquifer and you can now taste the salt in some of the grapes. The research solution is genetic engineering--salt tolerant grapes-- being done by Adelaide University.

Climate change is not only affecting the Clare Valley---it is also impacting on McLaren Vale since Adelaide's climate is changing. It is becoming hotter and drier. It is realities experienced by the grape growers that highlight the nonsense of the National Party in Canberra around climate change.

fred,
are the river irrigators in the Riverland in a state of denial about climate change and its impact on the River Murray? Surely not!

I would have thought that their economic future was one of high quality food produced through organic faming

Peter Hayman's prognosis about the Clare Valley is pretty good, namely

The amount of water used per hectare is relatively small in viticulture. Many vineyards in Clare are virtually dry grown, so we are talking about very modest amounts of water being put on, because it’s a high quality region. It’s clear to me that the future for these regions is to have modest irrigation use and modest yields. The sense I have is that the most likely outcome is that regions like Clare and the Barossa would perhaps retreat to a tighter area: the more recent expansion, planted on less suitable soils and less suitable sites, would be threatened before the earlier sites selected.”

Their future is high quality dry growing Reisling--- not making the turn to River Murray water being hawked by SA Water.

The Troubled Waters article by Robert Milliken at Inside Story spells out the Langhorne Creek events:

Since the 1950s, Langhorne Creek’s growers had irrigated their vines from an ancient aquifer. When too much pumping threatened that source’s future, authorities in 1994 switched their water licences to Lake Alexandrina, about ten kilometres away. At that time, plenty of water still flowed down the Murray to keep the lakes fresh. The wine industries at Langhorne Creek and nearby Currency Creek boomed, as new operators bought water licences from other locations on the Murray and transferred their extraction points to the lake. Then another crunch came last year.

No flows down the River Murray.
Craig Willson, proprietor of Bremerton’s Wines at Langhorne Creek, tells me: “The flows virtually stopped in 2008. The lake has dropped about 1.5 metres. It has turned quite saline. It’s now impossible for us to source its water.” Growers in the two neighbouring creek districts have now formed a company to build a pipeline so they can access water from a fresher location on the Murray itself at Jervois, about forty kilometres east, just above where the Wellington weir would be built. Canberra has provided part of the $105 million estimated cost.

And so it goes. Yet the National Party says no buyback of over allocated water licences. Regional communities will be destroyed. They mean those in NSW and Victoria.

One scenario that is on the table is that South Australia is like Califormia--climate change means that Californian's are looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California and they will have great difficulty keeping their cities going.

fred
you write

Some months ago I was talking to farmers in County Victoria [see the map in the link, its just north of the Barossa] and was told that local weather records were showing similar patterns.Rainfall reliability and effectiveness is decreasing and becoming more erratic.

There is no link.

Nan,
I think Fred's talking about the map in the Gent article.

It's possible that Goyder's Line will have relocated to the west-bound lane of Melbourne St in my lifetime. (I'm nearly 60. I'm also depressed.)

David,
So in 10 years when I'm your age I'll feel pretty much the same as I do now.

It's enough to drive a person to the bottle - a decent ries...oh.

The link I referred to is in
the OP, as Lyn said.
Nan.
Re climate change and the locals.
Please take this as just one person's impressions and don't extropalate too much.
Its a bit weird living here, but we love it.
I've had a mixture of responses re climate change. The irrigators are heavily into 'the Murray needs water', the district has posters up about that all over the place. Ask why there is a shortage and the answer is 'the drought'. Climate change as such is not referred to [I really wonder just how much traction that has in the general public], the farmers away from the river have a greater awareness of that.
Ask where we will get the water from and the rice/cotton etc mob in Qld and Vic [not NSW strangely] gets blamed. Its all their fault. Its a parochial response partly justified IMO but ignoring that we take out too much water here. That is never admitted and I get strange looks when I say it. Most are happy that billions of dollars are being spent on desal for Adelaide cos that will free up Murray water for the irrigators. Nobody considers the state of the river itself.
Well thats not totally true. There are some irrigators I have heard of down at the Lakes who are willing to go without water for the sake of the Lakes and change the nature of their propeties [how precisely I don't know] to go without Lake water. Apparently there are about half a dozen such and they are quite active according to my second hand info. Prominent respected locals. Historically the lakes have been kept at a greater than natural depth to allow irrigation but that will probably never reoccur.
There are all sorts of politics going on down at the Lakes. I hear the barrage across the lake with the resultant flooding by sea water is absolutely inevitable but is not being stated openly. I also have heard that 'they' will back the water upstream and artificially allow some lagoons to be flooded. One will be mine so my gain will be at the expense of the death of the Lakes. I have mixed feelings about that, selfisheness struggling with principle. The option that the health of the river ecosystem will be given priority [after urban but before irrigation] in the future is not on the table at all.
Also strange is that I can get nasty comments made to me about 'tree hugging' greenies', happens fairly often, but when I tell the speaker that I'm one and that we are revegetating our property they are full of praise and encouragement. And at the last two elections a rural polling booth near me has given around 10 votes to the Greens each time and I have no idea who these people are.

Strange place, no simple answes.

fred,
re your comment about the SA irrigators:

Ask where we will get the water from and the rice/cotton etc mob in Qld and Vic [not NSW strangely] gets blamed. Its all their fault. Its a parochial response partly justified IMO but ignoring that we take out too much water here. That is never admitted and I get strange looks when I say it. Most are happy that billions of dollars are being spent on desal for Adelaide cos that will free up Murray water for the irrigators. Nobody considers the state of the river itself.

I find this depressing given the slow death of the Chowilla wetlands on their backdoor. Their attitude is still one of use and abuse rather than making the shift to a more sustainable farming.

Fortunately, Lyn (since red wine grapes seem to be a bit more drought-tolerant than whites), I prefer shiraz to riesling.