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The South West of WA has experienced a drying trend since about 1975, something which is increasingly becoming evident in parts of the word with a Mediterranean climate. In the South West, the drying, along with higher temperatures, has resulted in profound changes that were initially hard to detect from year-to-year variability.
While runoff seems initially to be most affected, it is a reduction in groundwater levels that is often the underlying cause. The cumulatively effect of dry years is to lessens surface water-groundwater interactions.
The risk of dryland salinisation has reduced over much of the South West, although there are areas where is continues to seriously impact on agricultural land and native vegetation. Reduced rainfall amounts and possibly intensities, and the drying of wheatbelt valleys, has resulted in less winter flooding but there may have been an increase in summer flood risks.
The large reduction of runoff into Darling Range reservoirs important for Perth’s water supply has been well documented. The talk will also look at trends in groundwater levels in the Perth Basin using datasets from two government departments.
Climate change impacts on South West hydrology are still to be fully expressed.
The talk is based on a paper recently published with four co-authors in the Journal of the Royal Society of WA at: https://www.rswa.org.au/publications/journal/103/RSWA%20103%20p9-27%20McFarlane%20et%20al.pdf
Dr Don McFarlane has majors in geology and soil science, a masters in natural resource management and a doctorate in hydrogeology. He managed soil and catchment hydrology groups in the WA Department of Agriculture before becoming a Director in the Department of Water. At CSIRO he managed the water flagship and led projects on projected climate change impacts on South West- and Pilbara water resources, as well as on managed aquifer recharge. He is currently an Adjunct Professor supervising post-graduate students and giving occasional lectures. He won the CSIRO Chairman’s Medal for his contribution to satellite remote sensing of dryland salinity and native vegetation.
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