AGRICULTURAL WATER USE
The agriculture industry remained a major consumer of water in the Australian economy in 2008-09.
The volume of water used for irrigation, and application rates, rose slightly in 2008-09, the first increase since 2005-06.
Australia's total agricultural water use in 2008-09 rose 4% to 7,286 gigalitres, driven by increased water use in New South Wales (up 14%) and Queensland (up 13%).
However, compared to 2005-06, total agricultural water use in 2008-09 was down in almost every state, particularly New South Wales (down 56%) and Victoria (down 49%).
IRRIGATION WATER USE
Of the 409.0 million hectares of agricultural land in Australia in 2008-09, less than 1% were irrigated. However, 29% of all agricultural businesses undertook irrigation during 2008-09.
The amount of irrigation water used by Australia's 40 thousand irrigating agricultural businesses increased 3% to 6,501 gigalitres in 2008-09. Water use increased 14% in New South Wales and 12% in Queensland, with these increases partly offset by a decline in Victoria, down 10%, Western Australia, down 21%, and South Australia, down 6%.
Queensland continued to be the largest irrigating state, using 2,058 gigalitres of water for irrigation in 2008-09. Western Australia had the highest application rate at 4.7 ML/ha of irrigated land.
Nationally, the application rate increased to 3.7 ML/ha from 3.4 ML/ha in 2007-08. The application rate had been declining since 2002-03, with the exception of 2005-06 where the rate remained steady at 4.2 ML/ha.
Of the states and territories, Victoria and New South Wales had the greatest number of irrigating agricultural businesses in 2008-09, accounting for 51% of all of Australia's irrigating businesses. Tasmania had the highest proportion of irrigated agricultural land (5%) and the highest proportion of irrigators (49%).
The area of irrigated agricultural land decreased in most states/territories with the exception of Queensland (up 7%) and the Northern Territory (up 25%). The largest decrease in the area irrigated was in Victoria, down 13% to 371 thousand hectares.
In 2008-09 the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) accounted for 38% of Australia's irrigating agricultural businesses, 53% of all irrigated agricultural land and 54% of irrigation water applied.
Increases in volumes of irrigation water applied in 2008-09 were recorded by the northern reaches of the MDB, with Queensland MDB up 64% and New South Wales MDB up 17%. The southern parts of the MDB however, recorded decreases in volumes of irrigation water applied in 2008-09, with Victoria MDB down 15%, and South Australia MDB down 6%.