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So Really, How Dry Is Our Sunburnt Country?

So Really, How Dry Is Our Sunburnt Country?

It’s ingrained in our cultural heritage, plastered over our inflight safety videos and filtered through our classic Aussie poetry: “We are a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains, of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains”. Dorothea Mackellar was right; we live in a land of pretty contrasting extremes. Our big red centre is infamous, as are our lush and verdant coasts – and thanks to a new ecological map, we can now see just how the country is split.



What you’re looking at here is a map that documents both ephemeral and permanent water streams across the country. Those blue veins there? Those are rivers, streams and lakes, mapped out using a digital geographic mapping system called QGIS from the Geoscience Australia GEODATA TOPO 250K vector datasets, so you know it’s pretty legit.

There’s over 1.3 million streams depicted on the map, with each shaded a different colour depending on two factors: hierarchy (whether they’re major or minor streams) and ephemerality (whether they’re consistently running or not). Many of the lighter coloured streams are highly ephemeral, meaning they might only flow every few years or even once every decade.

When you look a little closer, it gets even more interesting.


Way to show off, Queensland! As you can see from the zoom, QLD’s North-west water streams are some of the most detailed and ubiquitous in the country. While in contrast…

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Goldfields-Esperance in Western Australia’s central south is spotty, sparse and weaves a completely different water narrative. If you’re keen to dig a little deeper, you can purchase your own map on Etsy now too. Very cool.

(H/t robbibt/Imgur)

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