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4618.0 - Water Use on Australian Farms, 2004-05  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/07/2006   
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NOTES


BACKGROUND

The agriculture industry is a major water consumer in the Australian economy. The Water Account Australia 2000-01 (cat. no. 4610.0) showed the agriculture industry accounted for 67% of water consumption in 2000-01.


This publication presents estimates of agricultural water use, sources of irrigation water, irrigation methods, and water traded in Australia in 2004-05. The estimates were compiled from data collected as part of the annual Agricultural Survey for the year ended 30 June 2005.


Comparisons with 2002-03 and 2003-04 estimates of agricultural water use, sources of irrigation water, irrigation methods, and water traded in Australia are included in this publication. Due to differences in collection methodology, care should be taken when comparing the results between 2002-03 and subsequent years.


Climatic conditions can affect the availability of water for irrigation and the need to irrigate in order to supplement rainfall. Information from the Bureau of Meteorology indicates that the period from July 2004 to June 2005 was dry and warm over most of Australia. More than 90% of the country had below-normal rainfall for the 12-month period, making it the 9th driest July-June period in 106 years of records. The national area-averaged rainfall was 367mm, 22% below the 1961-1990 long-term average. More information on climatic conditions for 2004-05 from the Bureau of Meteorology is included as an appendix.



CHANGES IN THIS ISSUE

In addition to water used for irrigation purposes, the Agricultural Survey 2004-05 collected water used for other agricultural purposes including stock drinking water, and dairy and piggery cleaning.


In response to feedback from users, volume estimates by source of water have been included instead of the number of agricultural establishments by source of water.


Improvements to survey procedures have resulted in the estimates of irrigating establishments and area of crop irrigated being more coherent with estimates of agricultural establishments and area under that crop.


Estimates of irrigation activity, by Statistical Division, have been included in this issue.



FEEDBACK ON PUBLICATION

The ABS welcomes feedback on the content of this publication in terms of the relevance, usefulness, quality and range of data presented. Also, more detailed information may be available on request. Please send any comments or questions to the Director, Environment and Energy Business Statistics Centre, GPO Box 66, Hobart, TAS 7001, or phone (03) 6222 5804.



INQUIRIES

For further information about these and related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.



SUMMARY COMMENTARY


AGRICULTURAL WATER USE

In 2004-05, Australian agricultural establishments used 11,147 gigalitres of water for agricultural production. Most water was used for irrigation of crops and pastures (10,085 gigalitres or 90.5%), while 1,062 gigalitres (9.5%) was used for other agricultural purposes such as stock drinking water, and dairy and piggery cleaning.

1.1 AGRICULTURAL WATER USE, By State 2004-05

Water Use
Agricultural establishments
Irrigation
Other agricultural uses
Total
no.
ML
ML
ML

NSW(a)
40 162
3 716 557
259 551
3 976 108
Vic.
32 357
2 363 764
206 456
2 570 219
Qld
27 132
2 613 404
251 486
2 864 889
SA
14 111
877 818
^127 010
1 004 828
WA
11 915
267 098
162 274
429 372
Tas.
3 877
231 758
23 690
255 448
NT
380
14 198
31 440
45 638
Aust.
129 934
10 084 596
1 061 906
11 146 502

^ estimate has a relative standard error of 10% to less than 25% and should be used with caution
(a) Includes ACT.


Most states and territories followed the pattern of predominately more water used for irrigation than for other agricultural purposes. The Northern Territory was the only state or territory to use less water on irrigation (31.1%) than for other agricultural purposes (68.9%).



IRRIGATION WATER USE

The number of agricultural establishments irrigating continued to decline in 2004-05, with irrigation undertaken by 35,244 or 27.1% of Australia's agricultural establishments. This was a 12.8% decrease from 40,400 irrigating establishments in 2003-04, and followed a decrease of 3,374 between 2002-03 and 2003-04.


Despite this fall in the number of agricultural establishments irrigating, the total area of irrigated land remained steady at 2.4 million hectares.


The total volume of water used for irrigation fell by 357 gigalitres from 10,442 gigalitres in 2003-04 to 10,085 gigalitres in 2004-05. A substantial increase in irrigation of cotton (up by 570 gigalitres) offset decreases in most other crops, the three largest being the volume of water used for the irrigation of pasture for hay and silage (down by 206 gigalitres), rice (down by 195 gigalitres) and pasture for grazing (down by 188 gigalitres).


Victoria reported the largest number of Agricultural establishments irrigating (9,828), followed by New South Wales with 8,606 establishments and Queensland with 8,258 establishments. With 910,000 hectares irrigated and 3,717 gigalitres of irrigation water used, New South Wales remained the largest irrigating state, representing 37.8% of Australia's total area irrigated and 36.9% of Australia's total irrigation water used.

1.2 IRRIGATION ACTIVITY, By State - 2002-03 to 2004-05

Agricultural establishments
no.
Agricultural establishments irrigating
no.
Area of agricultural land
'000 ha
Area irrigated
'000 ha
Volume applied
ML
Application rate
ML/ha(a)

Australia
2002-03
132 983
43 774
439 531
2 378
10 403 759
4.4
2003-04
130 526
40 400
440 110
2 402
10 441 515
4.3
2004-05
129 934
35 244
445 149
2 405
10 084 596
4.2
2004-05
NSW(b)
40 162
8 606
64 404
910
3 716 557
4.1
Vic.
32 357
9 828
13 920
636
2 363 764
3.7
Qld
27 132
8 258
143 797
542
2 613 404
4.8
SA
14 111
4 739
54 107
184
877 818
4.8
WA
11 915
2 049
104 646
45
267 098
6.0
Tas.
3 877
1 654
1 803
86
231 758
2.7
NT
380
110
62 473
4
14 198
4.0

(a) Averaged across all irrigated pastures and crops.
(b) Includes ACT.


Average application rates remained relatively stable across Australia between 2003-04 and 2004-05. Three states reported application rates higher than the national average of 4.2 ML/ha. These were Western Australia with 6.0 ML/ha, and Queensland and South Australia, both with 4.8 ML/ha. Tasmania had the lowest average application rate of 2.7 ML/ha in 2004-05.


As in 2002-03 and 2003-04, the most extensive use of irrigation water was on pasture for grazing (28.7%) followed by cotton (18.0%) and sugar cane (11.6%).


Nationally, just over one third of irrigators irrigated pasture for grazing, a slight increase on both 2003-04 and 2002-03, while only 1.9% of irrigators irrigated cotton and 6.4% irrigated sugar cane.


Irrigation of cotton increased significantly during 2004-05, with both the area irrigated and volume used increasing by 46% on the previous year.


Rice crops continued to have the highest average application rate of 12.1 ML/ha in 2004-05. The next highest application rate was for cotton, which remained unchanged from the 2003-04 level of 6.7 ML/ha.


Differences in the types of crops and pastures irrigated between the states and territories continued to be apparent. Pasture for grazing was the dominant use of irrigation water in several States, but particularly in Victoria and Tasmania, with just over two-thirds (68.0%) of the irrigation water applied in Victoria and more than half (52.7%) in Tasmania being used for pasture for grazing. Sugar cane continued to be the predominant crop irrigated in Queensland (1,110 gigalitres), accounting for 42.5% of the total irrigation water applied in that state, a decrease from the 47.2% reported in 2003-04.



WATER SOURCES AND TRADE

Nearly three quarters of all water used for agricultural production was surface water. Groundwater was the other major source of water used. Most states and territories followed this pattern, with South Australia and Northern Territory being the exception.


Extra water was purchased by 6,446 or 5.0% of agricultural establishments in Australia in 2004-05, while 4,748 or 3.7% of agricultural establishments sold water. The number of establishments buying extra water increased by 4.0% from the previous year, while the number of establishments selling water increased by 8.2%. As in 2003-04, Victoria reported the largest percentage of agricultural establishments trading water, with 8.1% purchasing extra water and 6.6% selling water. This accounted for 40.9% of the total number of establishments nationally which purchased extra water and 44.8% of those that sold water during 2004-05.



IRRIGATION WATER MANAGEMENT

Surface irrigation continued to be the most common irrigation method used in Australia in 2004-05, with 30.4% of irrigating agricultural establishments using this method. Surface irrigation accounted for 60.2% of the total area irrigated.


The number of agricultural establishments using portable irrigator sprinklers fell 22.8% from 5,115 establishments in 2003-04 to 3,951 in 2004-05.


There were small increases in the area irrigated by above ground drip and trickle methods (up 2.6%) and solid set sprinklers (up 4.4%), while the area under hose sprinkler irrigation decreased by 22.1% from 281,000 hectares in 2003-04 to 219,000 hectares in 2004-05.


While Victoria continued to have the higher number of establishments using surface irrigation, the total area irrigated by this method was greater in New South Wales, with 678,000 hectares compared to 442,000 hectares in Victoria.


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