4618.0 - Water Use on Australian Farms, 2003-04  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/10/2005   
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October 27, 2005
Embargoed 11:30am (AEST)

Fewer farms irrigating in 2003-04: ABS

Despite fewer farms irrigating in 2003-04 than the previous year, slightly more water was used over a larger area, according to a report released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

A total of 40,400 farms irrigated in 2003-04, down 8% from 2002-03. This figure represented under one-third (31%) of Australian farms, down from 33% in 2002-03.

Irrigating farms applied a total of 10,442 gigalitres (GL) of irrigation water to 2.4 million hectares (see media note). This represented 0.5% of agricultural land used for pasture and crops. This was a slight increases in both volume and area compared with 2002-03.

Pasture for grazing continued to use the most water in Australia in 2003-04, using 30% of the total volume of irrigation water on 33% of the total area irrigated nationally.

The most heavily irrigated crop was rice, with an average application rate of 12.4 megalitres per hectare (ML/ha), down from 14.1 ML/ha in 2002-03. This was almost three times the national average rate across all crops and pasture (4.3 ML/ha). Cotton had the next highest irrigation water use (6.7 ML/ha).

Western Australia reported the highest average application rate (5.7 ML/ha) and Tasmania the lowest (2.6 ML/ha).

The most common source of irrigation water nationally was surface water, such as rivers and dams, reported by 72% of irrigating establishments. The use of recycled or re-used water from off-farm sources increased by nearly 50% from 1,053
establishments in 2002-03 to 1,569 in 2003-04.

Surface irrigation, such as flood irrigation, was again the prevalent irrigation method nationally, used on 58% of areas irrigated in 2003-04.

Nationally, 6,200 or 4.8% of agricultural establishments reported purchasing extra water during 2003-04, while 4,388 or 3.4% reported selling water.

Further information is in
Water Use on Australian Farms 2003-04 (cat. no. 4618.0).

Media note:

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