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Wednesday, 6 May  2009  Perth's Future

Perth is beautiful city on the West coast of Australia. Watch today's story and find out about Perth's future.

TRACY BOWDEN: This glistening city positioned between ocean and desert is not the oasis it seems.

Perth appears awash with water, but looks are very deceptive and warnings about the future are dire.

DR TIM FLANNERY: They used the term 'ghost metropolis' I think, because we haven't seen big cities fall over in the last couple of hundred years.

We know they have in the distant past, but Perth is really in the front line for that sort of event to happen.

TRACY BOWDEN: One of the driest cities on the planet's driest inhabited continent is getting even drier.

Water restrictions have been in force since 2001 in Perth and its skies simply don't deliver anywhere near as much rain as they used to.

DR GEOFF GALLOP: Assume lower rainfall, assume even drier winters into the future and that's the basis upon which we're proceeding.

To do otherwise I think would be reckless.

TRACY BOWDEN: Perth's crippling water crisis began in 1975 - it was a dry year and as a result there was 30 per cent less run off into the water catchment.

The next year was even drier, as was the year after, and now, more than a quarter of a century later, average run off into Perth's dams has dropped to a staggering half of what it used to be.

With shrinking dams and cloudless skies, much of the state has gone below ground to quench its thirst, but here, too, things are not as they were.

ALAN WALKER, WA CONVERSATION AND LAND MANAGEMENT: It is a significant change. The water tables here have dropped several metres.

TRACY BOWDEN: This is the Crystal Cave at the Yanchep National Park outside Perth, a barometer of the city's ground water.

Till recently, it was full of water, the stalactites stopping where streams flowed.

Now the water table here is dropping by an astonishing half a metre a year.

ALAN WALKER: More than a decade ago there would have been water up to our knees where we're now standing and this lake system, within these caves, would have contained streams and surface water all year round.

FIGARO NATOLI: When we first commenced vegetable farming, the thing was that you picked out a plot of land and away you went, you sunk your bore and the water was there.

TRACY BOWDEN: Figaro Natoli started growing vegetables on the outskirts of Perth in the mid 1970s, right around the time the rainfall started to vanish.

So he relies on groundwater, but that too is drying up.

FIGARO NATOLI: In the last 24 months, where we've constantly noticed a reduction in pressure, and I mean that hasn't been as a result of our equipment failure, it's just been as a result of the water table continually dropping.

TRACY BOWDEN: The Western Australian Government has begun measuring the groundwater used by market gardeners, and Figaro Natoli fears the next step will be charging for water.

FIGARO NATOLI: We simply can't absorb any more input costs and paying for our water is just a no-no as far as the vegetable growing industry is concerned.

TRACY BOWDEN: Tackling the water issue has become one of the biggest battles confronting Western Australia.

DR GEOFF GALLOP: Look, I think we've all got a problem. It's a nationwide issue.

If you look at human history - I mean some civilisations have collapsed either through changes in weather patterns or, indeed, through the way that they operated in their own environments.

Let's adjust, otherwise I think we're threatening the future of our environment and therefore we're threatening the future of our civilisation here in Australia.

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English Bites - Perth's Future
story notes

Perth is the capital of Western Australia. Its located in the south west corner of the country.

Awash means covered with water. The city seems to have water everywhere.

Deceptive means able to deceive or trick. Something is deceptive when it makes you believe something that isnt true.

Dire means dreadful or awful. There are warnings that the Perth might be in trouble in the future.

in the front line
in a position where bad things are likely to happen; in a vulnerable position

Notice that we don't say the most dry. We use the most to form superlative adjectives with words of more than one syllable. With words of one syllable we add 'est'. Notice that with dry, the y changes to an i when 'est' is added.
more information: superlative adjectives

Notice that we don't say more dry. We use more to form comparative adjectives with words of more than one syllable. With words of one syllable we add 'er'. Notice that with dry, the y changes to an i when 'er' is added.
more information: comparative adjectives

Began is the past tense of the irregular verb begin.
more information: begin

Gone is the past participle of the irregular verb go.
more information: go

Here sunk is the past tense of the irregular verb sink.
more information: sink

Civilisation here means the whole society and culture.

What's an inhabited continent?

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