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What Australia can teach us about the drought




In the years before the drought began, Australia carried out a giant reset of its water rights. First, the government put a cap on the total amount of water available for farmers. Then, farmers received shares of that total supply.
In the years before the drought began, Australia carried out a giant reset of its water rights. First, the government put a cap on the total amount of water available for farmers. Then, farmers received shares of that total supply.
Martin Benik/Corbis

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For more than a decade, the "land down under" lived through what is known as "the big dry."

The parched lands were revived in 2010, bringing an end to the country's most severe drought on record.

Which is why a band of California public officials made a trip to Australia for some tips on how the Golden State can get through the current water shortage.

Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León of Los Angeles was on that trip, and told Take Two's Deepa Fernandez:

"I will say this that Australia is very impressive because they are a world leader when it comes to water conservation and water management," says de León.

The biggest difference he saw in water management was that Australians did not use drinkable water for irrigation, watering lawns, and toilets. It wasn't an easy change, but the country built the infrastructure and incentivized citizens to conserve.

de León also saw smaller scale water saving measures, like low-flow shower heads and dual-flush toilets.

But, to California's credit, he says the state has surpassed Governor Brown's mandate to conserve a minimum of 25 percent of water. To date, de León says California is at 33 percent.

"We're not out of the woods yet, especially because of climate change...we simply just don't know" says the Senator.

"But we have to be prepared, and I think learning from the Aussies has for me—at least—been valuable, because I am by no stretch of the imagination a water expert."

To listen to the full interview, click on the blue audio player above.