South Australia is in drought, if you ask the State Government.
According to Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone, the turning point on using the term drought was when the early expected Spring rains didn't arrive.
Irrespective of the definition or application of the word 'drought', in this neck of the woods it's well understood that we are experiencing prolonged dry conditions, with lower than average rainfall leading to reduced yields across all agricultural sectors.
[A recent] Barossa Water Forum was a timely reminder about the need to future-proof our region; the reality is if we don't protect the industries that underpin our regional economy and jobs, we won't have a premium brand to hang our hat on.
Particularly in Eden Valley, irrigators, livestock producers and those involved in primary industries have no external source of water security. They rely upon the natural river systems, dams and bores. As we move into hotter and drier weather patterns, the need for improved water security becomes increasingly urgent.
No longer can we bury our heads in the sand. We need to take affirmative action, because this isn't just a dry spell.
Climate change is real - the science is real - and the effects are far-reaching.
Drought goes beyond bottom lines and bank balances, to personal mental health and wellbeing. It is as much a social and community issue as an environmental and economic one.
I don't proclaim to be an expert on these issues, but a few takeaways from the Water Forum are worth sharing:
- Water in the Barossa is not just about grape growers. Water sustainability is needed to maintain a balance of enterprise production in our region and secure the quality and variety of produce that is grown here.
- We need to be clever, by finding infrastructure that's affordable and by being selective about which source of water will meet our community's needs.
- Water sustainability is everyone's responsibility. It is a federal, state and local issue. And we all need to be part of the conversation.
Finally, as a Council, we have an important role to play.
Formally, our policy position is to advocate for water policy that is economically, social and environmentally balanced.
For my part, I encourage everyone to rise to the challenge of climate change.