Agricultural Water Use Up By 4% In 2016-17

Agricultural Water Use Up By 4% In 2016-17

Australian Bureau Of Statistics

Increased Agricultural Water Use In 2016-17

Victor P Taffa

Australian farmers increased their water use in 2016-17, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

“Compared with the previous year, the total agricultural area watered increased by 4 % to 2.2 Million ha.” ABS Director of Environment and Agriculture Statistics Lauren Binns said.

“This was driven by increases in water availability for irrigation.”

“Volume of water used for irrigation also rose, by 9 % to 9.1 Million megalitres (ML) that’s the equivalent of about 3.6 Million Olympic swimming pools. The largest increase in volume of water applied was in New South Wales (up 46 % to 3.8 ML), primarily for rice and cotton crops.” Ms. Binns said.

Many farmers took advantage of the increased water availability and favourable climatic conditions in 2016-17 to increase the area planted to irrigated crops.

This water was predominantly sourced from

  • Irrigation channels and/or pipelines (up 20 % on the previous year),
  • On-farm dams and tanks (up 35 %),
  • Rivers/creeks/lakes (up 20 %),
  • Groundwater (down 23 %).

“Total area of land irrigated for rice increased by 214 % to 82,000 ha. This was driven by a 237 % increase in New South Wales.” Ms. Binns said.

Area watered for irrigated cotton increased by more than half (55 %) to 328,000 ha in 2016-17, with New South Wales up 50 % and Queensland up 65 %.

“Greater availability of water for irrigation also saw production levels for irrigated crops return to pre-drought levels. The value of rice increased by 120 % from the previous year to $252 Million in 2016-17 while cotton increased by a quarter (25 %) to $1,681 Million.” Ms. Binns said.

Australian farmers also spent less on irrigation in 2016-17 thanks to higher rainfall across most parts of Australia (down 3 % to $245 Million) and purchased less extra water.

Water purchases on a temporary basis This refers to extra water allocations that are purchased for a short period, rather than permanently. fell by nearly half (down 46 %) to $108 Million, while permanent extra water purchases were also down by a half (down 49 % to $77 Million).