Double the droughts and up to 10 times more heatwaves will threaten the survival of one of Australia’s key grape growing regions, says a government report.
The study, completed by top Australian scientists for the agriculture ministry, says the country’s Murray-Darling Basin – a key pillar in Australian wine and food production – faces destruction because of climate change.
It predicts droughts will double across the country and exceptionally hot years may increase by up to 10 times over the next 40 years.
Murray-Darling, which straddles parts of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, has already seen the most dramatic fall in grape production in the country’s recent record-breaking drought.
Researchers for Wine Australia are working on future scenarios for the Basin, according to Lawrie Stanford, Wine Australia's manager of information and analysis.
Water reserves in the Murray-Darling this May were lower than in 2007, he said in an interview with Drinks International. “Even if we get average winter rainfall for the next three or four years, we will only just get back to previous levels”.
He said predicting future water resources was difficult because of the “extraordinary conditions”, however.
Analysts were caught out this year when water from the Snowy Mountains unexpectedly made up for some of the Murray-Darling shortfall. Grape growers were also able to buy water in from other regions.
Stanford said these were the main reasons why Australia’s grape harvest significantly beat expectations in 2008, up to around 1.7-8m tonnes.
A stark prediction from leading UK wine merchant Berry Bros & Rudd said recently that climate change would reduce Australia to a “niche producer” by 2058.