IRRIGATION WATER USE
Of the 399 million hectares of agricultural land in Australia in 2009-10, less than 1% was irrigated. However, 30% of all agricultural businesses undertook irrigation during 2009-10.
The amount of irrigation water used by Australia's 41,000 irrigating agricultural businesses increased slightly by 1% to 6,596 gigalitres in 2009-10. New South Wales overtook Queensland as the state using the most water for irrigation applying 2,003 gigalitres of water for irrigation in 2009-10. Notably, Victoria increased its water used for irrigation by 26% to 1,505 gigalitres in 2009-10. Western Australia had the highest application rate at 5.0 ML/ha of irrigated land. Nationally, the application rate decreased slightly to 3.6 ML/ha from 3.7 ML/ha in 2008-09.
Of the states and territories, Victoria and New South Wales had the greatest number of irrigating agricultural businesses in 2009-10, accounting for 51% of all of Australia's irrigating businesses. Tasmania had the highest proportion of irrigated agricultural land (6%) and the highest proportion of irrigators (52%).
The area of irrigated agricultural land increased in most states/territories with the exception of South Australia (down 5%) and the Northern Territory (down 19%). The largest decrease in the area irrigated was in Queensland, down 8% to 503,000 hectares.
Almost a quarter (24%) of all agricultural land in Australia is located in the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB). In 2009-10 the MDB accounted for 37% of Australia's irrigating agricultural businesses, 53% of all irrigated agricultural land and 54% of irrigation water applied.
New South Wales MDB's volumes of irrigation water applied in 2009-10 increased by 5%. Victoria MDB was up by 31%, reflecting the large increase of agricultural water use in that state. Queensland MDB (down by 38%) and South Australia MDB (down by 3%) showed decreases in the volume of irrigation water applied.