Water used for irrigation falls 26% in 2018-19


Above average temperatures and drought across much of the eastern states led to a 26 per cent fall in the volume of water used for irrigation in 2018-19, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

ABS Director of Agriculture Statistics, Sarah Kiely, said: “The volume of water used for irrigation was at its lowest level since 2010-11, down 26 per cent to 7.2 million megalitres (ML) in 2018-19. The total area of crops and pastures irrigated in 2018-19 also fell, down 15 per cent to just under 2 million hectares.”

Ms Kiely said changing water availability and poor forecasts for rain in many regions influenced farmers’ crop selection and water use decisions through the 2018-19 financial year.

“New South Wales reported the largest decrease in volume of water applied to crops and pastures, down 37 per cent to 2.5 million ML, while Queensland reported the largest decrease in area irrigated, dropping 22 per cent to 414,000 hectares," Ms Kiely said.

“The Murray Darling Basin region also reported decreases in the volume of water applied, down 35 per cent to 4.4 million ML, and area irrigated, down 26 per cent to just over 1 million hectares.”

Ms Kiely said that in 2018-19 almost 4,000 agricultural businesses purchased extra water on a temporary basis. These businesses purchased 1.2 million ML of water, down 30 per cent on 2017-18, but the cost of purchase increased 66 per cent to $334 million, a record amount.

Further information can be found in Water Use on Australian Farms, 2018-19 (cat. no. 4618.0).

Media note

These results are for the 2018-19 financial year and pre-date the impact of bushfires on parts of New South Wales and Queensland during the summer of 2019-20.

The ABS is continuing to monitor potential impacts from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) on agricultural related statistics, and will continue to do so for the duration of the pandemic.

For the 2018-19 reference period, COVID-19 did not impact data collection activities related to agricultural commodities and their gross value or the use of water on farms.

For media enquiries and interview requests contact the ABS media team: media@abs.gov.au

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