4618.0 - Water Use on Australian Farms, 2002-03  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 31/03/2005   
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March 31, 2005
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)
Pasture for grazing the biggest user of irrigation water

Pasture for grazing was the most extensively irrigated crop in Australia in 2002-03, according to a new survey on agricultural water use released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In a period which saw the peak of a severe drought affecting most of Australia, pasture for grazing used 27% of the total volume of irrigation water and amounted to 30% of the total area irrigated nationally.

The thirstiest crop was rice, with an application rate of 14.1 megalitres per hectare (ML/ha), more than three times the national average rate across all crops and pasture (4.4 ML/ha). Cotton had the next highest irrigation water use at 6.5 ML/ha.

Western Australia reported the highest average application rate (6.5 ML/ha) and Tasmania the lowest (2.4 ML/ha).

New South Wales was the largest irrigating state or territory, applying 4,273 gigalitres (GL) (41% of the Australian total volume), followed by Victoria (24%) and Queensland (21%).

In total during 2002-03, 43,774 farms irrigated, which was nearly a third (33%) of agricultural establishments in Australia. These farms applied 10,404 GL of irrigation water to 2.4 million hectares, or 0.5% of agricultural land under pasture and crops.

The most common source of irrigation water nationally was surface water, such as rivers and dams, reported by 72% of irrigating establishments. Recycled or re-used water from off-farm sources was reported by 2.4% of irrigating establishments.

Surface irrigation, such as flood irrigation, was the prevalent irrigation method nationally, used on 1,344,000 ha, or 57% of the area irrigated.

Nationally, 27% of irrigating establishments reported irrigating without a water entitlement of some form. Almost two-thirds of reported entitlements were based on volume. Reported volume entitlements totalled almost 14,000 GL, of which 9,250 GL (66%) was allocated to farmers for the 2002-03 year.

Today's release, Water Use on Australian Farms 2002–03 (cat. no. 4618.0), also includes information on water trading, irrigation water management and irrigation finances, as well as information on climatic conditions provided by the Bureau of Meteorology.

Media note:

1 Gigalitre (GL) = One thousand million litres, or a volume of approximately 444 Olympic swimming pools.
1 Megalitre (ML) = One million litres, or a volume of approximately half an Olympic swimming pool.
1 Hectare (ha) = 100 metres by 100 metres, or 10,000 square metres
1 Megalitre per hectare = 100 millimetres depth over each hectare.