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Australia hit by drought

Published:  23 July, 2008

Allocations of water to Australian wineries are down to as little as 8% following the country's worst drought since the 1880s, when records began. August saw the lowest recorded levels of rainfall for the country in one month, the latest in a pattern of reduced rainfall and high temperatures since 1997.

The Wimmera-Mallee reservoir, which supplies Grampians wineries Mount Langi Ghiran and Seppelt, has been running at 6.3% of capacity, while the vast one million megalitre-capacity Thomson reservoir is only 28% full.

According to Australian prime minister John Howard: We've had two very bad years close together, unlike the experience at the time of the Federation drought [1890-1902], or the drought immediately after World War II.' Ken Matthews, chief executive and chairman of the Australian government's National Water Commission, said that water storages across most of southern Australia are at disturbingly low levels'.

According to Steve Guildbard-Oulton, senior viticulturist at Wyndham Estate, which has seen allocations of its water supply cut to 8%: We're still reeling from the reduction, and trying to understand what we're going to do about it'.

The Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation (AWBC) released a statement denying that the situation was drastic: Most grape growers have efficient irrigation systems and are able to water effectively, even where water allocations have been cut by governments.'

AWBC chief executive Sam Tolley added: A continuation of the drought could have more serious impacts in the future, particularly if water allocations are more severely restricted and this year's secondary buds, which will fruit next year, have had a hampered beginning.'