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Another wet month for parched Murray-Darling Basin

Ben Domensino, Wednesday April 1, 2020 - 15:54 EDT

For the first time since 2017, the Murray-Darling Basin has just had back-to-back months with above average rain.

The area-averaged rainfall across the Murray-Darling Basin during March was 57.9mm. This is well above the long-term monthly average of 38.6mm and the highest March total in three years.

March was also the second consecutive month to register above-average rain in the Murray-Darling Basin, a feat that hasn't happened since November and December in 2017. February's 81.6mm was double the long-term monthly average of 40.4mm.

The abundance of drier-than-usual months over the last three years has made the Murray-Darling Basin a focal point for a prolonged and intense drought in southeastern Australia.

The 36 months from March 2017 to February 2020 was the driest such three-year period in records dating back to 1900 for the Murray-Darling Basin and NSW.

Image: Rainfall deciles during the three-year period from March 2017 to February 2020. Red is below the long-term average for this period. Darkest red is driest on record. Source: Bureau of Meteorology

While useful rain in the opening months of 2020 has interrupted this long run of drier than usual months, more is needed to break the drought.

Over the three year period ending in March 2020, rainfall deficiencies across most of the Murray-Darling Basin ranged from 300mm to 1000mm. 

On March 18th, total water storage in the Murray-Darling Basin was sitting at 27 percent of capacity.

As of March 30th, just over 92 per cent of NSW was still in one of three drought categories, according to the state's Department of Primary Industries.

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