4610.0 - Water Account, Australia, 2015-16 Quality Declaration 
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MAIN FINDINGS 2015-16

PHYSICAL WATER SUPPLY AND USE

During 2015-16, an estimated 76,544 gigalitres of water was extracted from the environment to support the Australian economy — a similar amount to 2014-15. Of this amount, total water consumption by households and industry in 2015-16 was 16,132 gigalitres (GL), a decrease of 7.2 per cent from 17,375 gigalitres in 2014-15. Nearly 61,000 gigalitres of the total amount extracted from the environment was used in-stream (for example, hydroelectricity generation) and is discharged back to the environment without consumption.

This national decrease in water consumption was largely driven by significant reductions in water consumption in New South Wales and Victoria. In contrast, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory all experienced increased water consumption.

The major driver of these reductions was a significant decrease in agricultural water consumption in New South Wales and Victoria in 2015-16. New South Wales agricultural water consumption dropped by 970 gigalitres (24%), and in Victoria agricultural water consumption dropped by 412 gigalitres (15%). Both states experienced large decreases in areas for cropping particularly for rice, wheat, sorghum and canola, and reduced water allocations also contributed to the decline. Victoria also experienced a large decline in water consumption in the Dairy cattle industry.

Most other States and Territories experienced an increase in water consumption by Agriculture (the exception being the Northern Territory, which also saw reductions in water use for Agriculture), with increases ranging from 9.1% in Queensland, to 34.3% in Tasmania.

Agriculture dominated water consumption across most States and Territories, the exceptions being Western Australia (water consumption dominated by Mining), Northern Territory, and the Australian Capital Territory (water consumption dominated by households). In these jurisdictions, non-Agricultural industries and households were the largest consumers of water.

Nationally, Manufacturing consumed 577 gigalitres (a 3.1% decrease on 2014-15); Mining consumed 661 gigalitres (a 13.9% decrease); Electricity and gas consumed 288 gigalitres (a decrease of 7.9%); and Other industries (mainly service industries) consumed 1,084 gigalitres (little change from 2014-15). Despite the general decrease across Australia in water consumption by non-Agricultural industries, some States experienced increases, such as significant South Australian increases in Mining and Other industries; and several of the smaller States and Territories showed increased water consumption in Other industries.

All States and Territories except Queensland experienced an increase in household water consumption, with an overall national increase of 2.5%. Largest increases were seen in South Australia (8.8% increase) and the Northern Territory (10.8% increase).

Graph Image for Water Consumption, by State and Territory

Footnote(s): (a) Includes Sewerage and Drainage Services and Waste Collection, Treatment and Disposal Services. Data includes water losses or water lost in the course of water delivery; (c) Refer to Glossary for definition of "Other Industries"..

Source(s): Water Account, Australia, 2015-16


Graph Image for Water Consumption, by Industry and Households

Footnote(s): (a) Includes Forestry and Fishing; (b) Includes Sewerage and Drainage Services and Waste Collection, Treatment and Disposal Services. Data includes water losses or water lost in the course of water delivery; (c) Refer to Glossary for definition of "Other Industries".

Source(s): Water Account, Australia, 2015-16



MONETARY WATER SUPPLY AND USE

Total revenue from sales of water and the provision of water services increased slightly in 2015-16 (2.3%) to $17.2 billion. Nearly all of this revenue (over 99%) is from the Water supply, sewerage and drainage services industry, with 63% of revenue coming from the supply of water, and the rest for wastewater, sewerage and drainage services. The three largest States (New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland) made up over three-quarters (77%) of the total revenue from sales of water and the provision of water services.

There was a 6% increase in revenue from total water supplied between 2014-15 and 2015-16, in contrast with a national 7% decrease in water consumption over the same period.

Households spent $10.1 billion on water and related services in 2015-16 (similar to 2014-15), compared with $6.9 billion by industry. Over half (53%) of this expenditure by households was on distributed water supply ($5.4 billion). This was just over a 5 per cent increase in 2015-16. By comparison, Agriculture, forestry and fishing industry spent $689 million on distributed water.

Industry water productivity increased 11% in 2015-16, from $97 million Gross Value Added (GVA) per gigalitre of water consumed, up to $108 million GVA per gigalitre of water consumed. The Mining industry experienced a 23% increase in water productivity in 2015-16.

Expenditure per kilolitre of water used by households increased from $2.99 per kilolitre of water used, to $3.08 per kilolitre of water used in 2015-16. South Australian households spent the most on water, at $4.23 per kilolitre of water consumed.

Graph Image for Distributed Water, Expenditure and Use

Footnote(s): (a) Includes Forestry and Fishing; (b) Excludes Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Services and Waste Collection, Treatment and Disposal Services. Refer to Glossary for definition of "Other Industries".

Source(s): Water Account, Australia, 2015-16


WATER SUPPLY, SEWERAGE AND DRAINAGE

The Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Services industry extracted 10,527 gigalitres from the environment in 2015-16, a nearly 13 per cent decrease on 2014-15. Most of this is supplied to other industries and households as distributed water.

Rural water utilities and service providers supplied 66% of the water supplied by the Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Services industry in 2015-16, up from 56% in 2014-15. The Agriculture industry used 52% of distributed water (5,524 gigalitres in 2015-16); the Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Services industry used 1,959 gigalitres or 18 per cent of total distributed use; most of this volume represents through losses to the distribution system. Households used 1,750 gigalitres or 16.5 per cent of total distributed water.

Surface water was by far the greatest source for water supplied by the Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Services industry, accounting for 94.7 per cent of total distributed water (or 10,049 gigalitres). Groundwater provided 417 gigalitres, while desalination plants supplied 149 gigalitres.

Graph Image for Distributed Water Use - Australia

Footnote(s): (a) Includes Sewerage and drainage services; (b) Includes Waste collection, treatment and disposal services. Refer to Glossary for definition of "Other Industries".

Source(s): Water Account, Australia, 2015-16



AGRICULTURE

The gross value of irrigated agricultural production was $15.0 billion in 2015-16. The area of irrigated agricultural land in 2015-16 was 2.1 million hectares in 2015-16 (no change from 2014-15). Irrigated land represented 0.6 per cent of all agricultural land in 2015-16. Total water consumption from all agricultural activities (includes agricultural activity that may not be primary to the business) was 9,898 gigalitres. This compares with 9,435 gigalitres of water consumption by businesses whose primary activity is Agricultural production - that is, the Agriculture industry. It should be noted that the scope for total agricultural activity for the 2015-16 Agricultural Census was all agricultural businesses with an Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations (EVAO) of $40,000 or greater. This is a change from previous ABS Rural Environment and Agricultural Collections, where a scope of EVAO of $5,000 or greater was used, and therefore 2015-16 GVIAP and Agricultural activity water consumption data (tables 4.5 to 4.8) may not be directly comparable to 2014-15.

Agricultural supply and use data - presenting an industry perspective, consistent with the concepts used in environmental-economic accounting in this publication, have adjusted for this scope change and are thus comparable with previous year's data. On average, Agriculture consumed 58% of Australia's total water consumption, slightly down from 60% in 2014-15. However, this varies greatly between States and Territories.

Agriculture saw a 9.4% decline in water consumption in 2015-16, down to 9,435 gigalitres. This drop was driven by large decreases in water consumption in New South Wales and Victoria, primarily in 'Sheep, Beef Cattle and Grain Growing'; and Dairy cattle (for Victoria). Combined this was a decrease of 1,382 gigalitres. This decrease relates to a decline in the number of businesses watering, with declines seen across most large scale cropping categories, e.g. pasture, hay, rice, cereals and broadacre. High costs and limited availability were driving fewer farmers to water crops in 2015-16.

All other States (except Northern Territory) experienced increases in water consumption in Agriculture. Increases in Dairy cattle water consumption was seen in Western Australia and Tasmania.

The three biggest States - NSW, Victoria and Queensland - have Agriculture contributing 60%, 63% and 62% to total State water consumption, respectively. Agriculture in South Australia and Tasmania accounted for 68% of the State's total water consumption in 2015-16.

For Western Australia, most of the State's water consumption (52%) is by non-Agricultural industries (mainly the Mining industry), although this has decreased between 2014-15 and 2015-16, along with a State-wide increase in Agricultural water consumption (mainly Dairy cattle and Mushroom and vegetable growing). One quarter of Western Australia's water consumption was attributed to Agriculture in 2015-16, compared with 21% in 2014-15.

Less than one-third (30%, down from 37% in 2014-15) of Northern Territory's water consumption is Agriculture, with the Australian Capital Territory consuming negligible amounts of water for Agriculture.

Graph Image for Water Consumption - Agriculture Industry

Graph Image for Area Irrigated, Australia


EXPERIMENTAL ESTIMATES OF SOIL WATER (NOT INCLUDED IN THE PHYSICAL SUPPLY AND USE TABLES)

The estimated quantity of water supplied from the soil in Australia for 2015-16 was 329,495 gigalitres, a decrease of 0.9 per cent from 2014-15 at 332,480 gigalitres. Queensland had the largest supply of water from soil in 2015-16 (98,525 gigalitres, or 30 per cent of the Australian total).