The ever-thirsty industry is investing in the latest water-efficiency measures but it may not be enough

The flecks of white speckled across the parched brown landscape of the Murray-Darling basin appear dramatically out of place – some kind of wintertime miracle in the Australian bush. On closer inspection it is not snow, but something equally alien to this harsh environment: fluffy wads of cotton.

The major river system of the world’s driest inhabited continent somehow sustains this thirsty cash crop – the WWF estimates that 2,700 litres of water can be used to produce a single cotton T-shirt. Australian conditions have pushed local farmers to become the most efficient in the game, using hi-tech innovations to improve water productivity by more than 40% in a decade.

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