4618.0 - Water Use on Australian Farms, 2007-08 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/05/2009   
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Australian irrigating agricultural businesses applied 18% less irrigation water to agricultural land in 2007-08 than the previous year. The area irrigated nationally decreased 4% to 1,851 thousand hectares.

The rice industry showed the effects of dry conditions and limited irrigation water with only 23 rice producers using 27 gigalitres of irrigation water, a drop of 89%. This drop in application of irrigation water follows the 81% reduction in 2006-07.

Cotton growers faced similar conditions in 2007-08 and applied 309 gigalitres of irrigation water to 58 thousand hectares. This was in comparison to the 868 gigalitres used for irrigation and 134 thousand hectares irrigated in 2006-07.


While in 2006-07 cotton growers were the primary users of irrigation water in New South Wales, accounting for 26% of irrigation water use, in 2007-08 the major irrigators were irrigating other cereals for grain or seed, using 34% of all irrigation water applied. The area of cotton crop irrigated in New South Wales fell 62 thousand hectares (63%).

The volume of water applied to grapevines nationally dropped from 639 gigalitres in 2006-07 to 517 gigalitres in 2007-08. Victoria accounted for over half of this reduction, with water used on grapevines declining to 153 gigalitres. Pasture, cereal and other crops for grazing used the majority of Victoria's irrigation water (50%), irrigating 221 thousand hectares at an application rate of 3.0ML/ha.

Whilst reporting a downturn in area under crop, sugar cane producers continued to be the largest irrigator in Queensland, using 45% of the state's irrigation water at an application rate of 4.5ML/ha. Queensland saw a large increase in irrigation of other cereals for grain or seed (327 gigalitres).

In 2007-08, pasture, cereal and other crops used for grazing was the major use of irrigation water in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, accounting for 32%, 35% and 62% of irrigation water applied in each state respectively.

Grapevines were the second largest irrigation water consumers in South Australia (23%) in 2007-08. The second largest irrigators in Western Australia were fruit tree, nut tree, plantation or berry fruit producers, irrigating 67% of the area of these crops, at an application rate of 4.7ML/ha. In Tasmania, 44 gigalitres of water was applied to vegetables for human consumption or seed, the second largest irrigated agricultural area in the state at 14 thousand hectares.

Irrigation of fruit trees, nut trees, plantation fruit or berries in the Northern Territory continued to decline from 13 gigalitres in 2006-07, to 7 gigalitres in 2007-08.

Murray-Darling Basin

The area of agricultural land irrigated in the Murray-Darling Basin continued to decrease in 2007-08, to 958 thousand hectares, with 30% less irrigation water being applied than in 2006-07. These drops follow the declines of 2006-07 where the area irrigated fell 33%, and the volume of irrigation water applied fell 40%.

In contrast, irrigation water use outside the Murray-Darling Basin decreased much less in both years, down 1% between 2006-07 and 2007-08, following on from a decline of 6% between 2005-06 and 2006-07.

All of Australia's rice producers were located in the Murray-Darling Basin in 2007-08, and the impact of limited irrigation water was seen at the national level. Similarly, 92% of Australia's cotton growers are located in the region, irrigating 81 thousand hectares (60%) less land than in 2006-07.

In 2007-08, other cereals for grain or seed accounted for the highest proportion of irrigation water in the region (26%) followed by pasture, cereal and other crops for grazing (21%) and grapevines (14%).