Western NSW communities are facing a second front of the drought’s impact as climate forecasts indicate little chance of relief in the next three months.
Data from the NSW farm dam survey has underlined how critical conditions have become in some areas, particularly the state’s west, the Department of Primary Industries’ (DPI) latest update shows.
“In this part of NSW, the nature of the drought event has shifted such that farmers and communities are not just managing an agronomic event (low primary production), but the hydrological impact is evident with critically low water reserves,” Dr Anthony Clark said.
Dr Clark, DPI climate applications and digital agriculture leader, said large parts of western and central NSW remained in the drought or intense drought categories of the monitoring framework, despite some isolated storms throughout December.
The city of Dubbo is some of the 35.7 per cent of the region in the intense drought category, according to the DPI’s combined drought indicator tool.
“While some parts of the state received scattered storm activity leading up to the new year, this hasn’t been sustained enough to allow for significant pasture or crop production,” Dr Clark said.
“That means there has been very minimal opportunity for dryland summer cropping, and there are very low levels of ground cover so farmers have had to continue feeding their livestock.
“Areas in the north-west of the state, such as Walgett and Coonamble, have now experienced 18 months or more of extremely dry conditions in terms of the long-term historical context.”
The DPI cites official climate forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology that indicate the next three months are likely to exceed average daytime and overnight temperatures across the state, meaning drought conditions are likely to remain at current levels or intensity over the coming months.