The Battle with Drought: Water, the Essential Element (1940–49)
Drought, dust and debt were the main ingredients of the 20-year period from the mid-1920s. After a buoyant climate optimism, which extended until the late 1920s, the 1930s and 1940s were to test the ingenuity and forbearance of Australians in regard to their climate. During this drier than average period rural enterprise took a serious battering, combined as this episode of difficult climate was with an economic downturn in the form of a worldwide depression from 1929. Due to the problems faced in the rural sector, their resolve became a matter of national importance. Yet, despite this long dry period, attitudes to the Australian climate showed an underlying optimism that the ills of the countryside could be overcome. It was thought that, with the aid of technology, the Australian rural environment could support more intensive use of the land. Following the big schemes and grand ideas for developing Australia in the 1920s, what followed was two decades of reassessment. The difficulties of climate were tackled from the point of view of the use of technology in the form of large-scale irrigation schemes to render the environment productive. As the seasons had turned from predominately good to mostly bad, above all water was viewed as the panacea—the element which once added to the land would secure the garden ideal.