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4613.0 - Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends, Jan 2010  
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Contents >> Water >> Water consumption

This document was added 02/05/2010.



WATER CONSUMPTION

WATER CONSUMPTION BY SECTOR
Graph: Water consumption by sector
(a) Includes sewerage and drainage services.
(b) Includes water losses.
(c) Includes services to agriculture; hunting and trapping.
(d) 1 GL = 1 Gigalitre = 1,000,000,000 Litres
Source: ABS, 2006, Water Account Australia 2004–05 (cat. no. 4610.0).



2000-01
2004-05
Volume (GL)
% of total
Volume (GL)
% of total

Agriculture
14 989
69.1
12 191
65.0
Household
2 278
10.5
2 108
11.2
Water supply (a) (b)
2 165
10.0
2 083
11.1
Other industries
1 102
5.1
1 059
5.6
Manufacturing
549
2.5
589
3.1
Mining
321
1.5
413
2.2
Electricity and gas
255
1.2
271
1.4
Forestry and fishing (c)
44
0.2
51
0.3
Total
21 703
100
18 767
100

(a) Includes sewerage and drainage services.
(b) Includes water losses.
(c) Includes services to agriculture; hunting and trapping.
Source: ABS, 2006, Water Account Australia 2004-05 (cat. no. 4610.0).


The most recent comprehensive data available for Australia-wide water consumption by sector is the ABS Water Account Australia 2004–05.

Water consumption in Australia in 2004–05 was 18,767 gigalitres (GL), a decrease of 14% from 2000–01, in which it was 21,703 GL.

Many parts of Australia experienced below average rainfall in 2004–05, with drought conditions occurring in some areas, including parts of the Murray-Darling Basin. These dry conditions have led to urban water restrictions and reduced availability of water for irrigators.

Although the agriculture industry had the highest water use in 2004–05 (12,191 GL, or 65% of total water consumption), water use by this sector decreased by 19%, or 2,798 GL, between 2000–01 and 2004–05.

Households accounted for 2,108 GL of water in 2004–05, or 11.2% of Australia’s total water consumption. Household water use also decreased between 2000–01 and 2004–05, by 7% or 170 GL.

WATER CONSUMPTION BY AGRICULTURE

Graph: Water consumption by agriculture
(a) NT values are too small to show on graph.
Source: ABS, 2009, Water Use on Australian Farms 2007–08 (cat. no. 4618.0).



2005-06
2006-07
2007-08
Volume (GL)
% of total
Volume (GL)
% of total
Volume (GL)
% of total

NSW & ACT
4 796
41.0
2 845
33.4
1 856
26.6
Vic.
2 641
22.6
1 823
21.4
1 471
21.0
Qld
2 581
22.1
2 084
24.5
2 039
29.2
SA
976
8.3
1 035
12.1
934
13.4
WA
428
3.7
412
4.8
370
5.3
Tas.
230
2.0
288
3.4
271
3.9
NT
38
0.3
34
0.4
49
0.7
Total
11 689
100
8 521
100
6 989
100

Source: ABS, 2008; 2008; 2009, Water Use on Australian Farms 2005-06; 2006-07; 2007-08 (cat. no. 4618.0).


The agriculture industry is the largest consumer of water in Australia (see previous page). Nearly all (90%) of the water used for agriculture in 2007–08 was used for irrigation.

Water consumption by the agriculture industry is very much influenced by climatic conditions and this must be taken into account when assessing changes in water use. For large parts of southern and eastern Australia, dry conditions have persisted since 2001. For the majority of the agriculturally important Murray-Darling Basin, October 2008 marked the seventh consecutive year of lower-than-average rainfall totals (Endnote 1).

In 2007–08, the agriculture industry consumed 6,989 gigalitres (GL), nearly one-fifth (18%) less water compared with 2006–07 (8,521 GL), and 40.2% less than in 2005–06 (11,689 GL).

New South Wales (including the ACT) was responsible for the majority of this decrease, dropping its agricultural water consumption by 35% or 989 GL between 2006–07 and 2007–08. This followed a drop of 1951 GL (41%) between 2005–06 and 2006–07. Victorian agriculture also lowered its water consumption, by a total of 44% (1,170 GL) between 2005–06 and 2007–08. Farmers in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia also decreased the amount of water they used during the period, but their percentage share of the country’s total increased. Tasmania and the Northern Territory increased their agricultural water consumption slightly between 2005–06 and 2007–08.
WATER USED FOR IRRIGATION, 2007-08

Pasture/crop
Area under pasture or crop
Area irrigated
Application rate
Volume of water applied
% of total irrigation water
'000 ha (c)
'000 ha
ML/ha (d)
GL (e)

Pasture and crops used for grazing
66 667
544
3.0
1 641
26.1
Cereals for grain or seed (excludes rice)
19 660
340
2.8
955
15.2
Sugar cane
381
187
4.6
863
13.7
Fruit trees, nut trees, plantation and berry fruits (a)
187
131
4.3
560
8.9
Grapevines
175
168
3.1
517
8.2
Pasture and crops used for hay
2 677
147
3.4
502
8.0
Vegetables for human consumption
123
114
3.8
431
6.9
Cotton
69
58
5.3
310
4.9
Other broadacre crops (b)
3 773
58
3.2
185
2.9
Pasture and crops used for silage (includes lucerne)
na
65
2.5
162
2.6
Nurseries, cut flowers and cultivated turf
17
14
4.4
62
1.0
Rice
2
2
12.9
27
0.4
Other pastures or crops not elsewhere classified
na
23
3.0
70
1.1
Total
na (>93 731)
1 851
3.4
6 285
100

(a) Excludes grapevines.
(b) Excludes cereals, sugar cane and cotton.
(c) 1 ha = 1 hectare = 10,000 m2; 100 ha = 1 km2.
(d) 1 ML = 1 Megalitre = 1,000,000 Litres.
(e) 1 GL = 1 Gigalitre = 1,000,000,000 Litres.
Note: na = Not available.
Source: ABS, 2009, Water Use on Australian Farms 2007-08 (cat. no. 4618.0).


The vast majority (90%) of the water used for agricultural production is for irrigation of crops and pastures, with the rest used for other agricultural purposes such as drinking water for stock and dairy/piggery cleaning.

Climatic conditions affect both availability of water for irrigation and the need to irrigate in order to supplement rainfall. Some crops such as rice, cotton and grapevines are highly dependent on irrigation. For other production, including grazing pasture and most broadacre crops, irrigation water supplements natural rainfall or provides moisture at critical periods of plant growth.

In 2007–08, the total volume of water used for irrigation was 6,285 gigalitres (GL). ‘Pasture and crops used for grazing’ used the most water in Australia in 2007–08. It accounted for more than a quarter (26.1%) of the total volume of irrigation water and for 29% of the total area irrigated nationally.

Rice was the most heavily irrigated crop in 2007–08, in terms of the volume of water applied per unit area. The application rate for rice was almost four times the national average rate across all crops and pastures. Cotton was the crop with the second-highest irrigation rate.

Rice growers reported a substantial drop in irrigation water use in 2007–08 (down 89% on 2006–07), as did cotton growers (down 64%). The area of cotton crop irrigated in Australia fell by 57%, compared to the previous year.


ENDNOTES


1. Bureau of Meteorology, 2008, Special Climate Statement 16.

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