Conclusions

The impacts of drought in Australia have been considerable, particularly at local scales, and it is important to mitigate them. In the past, governments have responded both during and after drought occurrence, in most cases prompted by the applications for assistance from primary producers. However, government policies are now directed toward a more proactive response to drought to enhance the self-reliance of primary producers. The monitoring system, described in this chapter, has the capacity to focus attention on regions experiencing drought and those most likely to experience drought within a few months. What is required is to link the national-scale drought monitoring to a focused and timely campaign to encourage primary producers to prepare for drought forecasts. To this end, a variety of tools are available to assess management options at a farm scale.

It is important to continue to evaluate the accuracy of the modeling framework and, in particular, the drought monitoring and alert components. Apart from the real-time evaluation of the operational system, the most valuable evaluation will come through case studies of historical droughts. Currently not all states are financially committed to the ongoing development of the AussieGRASS alert system.

In Queensland, where most progress has been made to convert output from the spatial modeling framework to operational drought monitoring, it has been difficult to maintain support for drought alert products. Interest in monitoring has naturally been highest during dry periods, and it has proven difficult to maintain the same level of support during recent wet periods. In this regard it is important that the drought monitoring system does not fall victim to the very "drought hydro-illogical cycle" (Wilhite, 1993) it aims to address.

acknowledgments We thank David White, Bill Parton, Wayne Hall, Beverley Henry, and an anonymous reviewer for their advice and comments in the preparation of the manuscript. The assistance of David Ahrens, Belinda Cox, Grant Stone, and Michael Gutteridge in preparation of data and figures is also appreciated. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not represent a policy position of the Queensland Government or the Department of Natural Resources and Mines.

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