4618.0 - Water Use on Australian Farms, 2004-05  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/07/2006   
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July 25, 2006
Embargoed 11:30am (AEST)

Irrigation water use down for Australian farmers: ABS

Australian farmers used less water for irrigation in 2004-05, according to the latest statistics released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

A total of 10,085 gigalitres of water was used on crops and pastures, down 3.4% on the previous year.

While most pastures and crops experienced decreases, cotton went against the trend. Water used to irrigate cotton in 2004-05 was the highest for three years, totalling 1,819 gigalitres, an increase of 45.7% on 2003-04. The area of irrigated cotton also increased by a similar percentage, leaving the irrigation usage rate steady at 6.7 megalitres per hectare. The only crop to have a higher irrigation usage rate nationally was rice at 12.1 megalitres per hectare.

The most substantial decreases in irrigation water use were for pasture for hay and silage, down by 206 gigalitres. Rice was also down by 195 gigalitres, pasture for grazing was down by 188 gigalitres.

Despite this drop, pasture for grazing remained the most extensive use of irrigation water, using 2,897 gigalitres in 2004-05 on 842,000 hectares, or 35% of the total area irrigated across Australia.

Surface irrigation, such as flood irrigation, continued to be the most common method of irrigating, with over 60% of the area irrigated in Australia during 2004-05 being by surface irrigation.

Irrigation water made up over 90% of the water used on Australian farms, with new figures collected by the ABS showing water used for other agricultural purposes, such as stock drinking water, dairy and piggery cleaning, totalled 1,062 gigalitres. The only state or territory to use more water on other agricultural purposes than for irrigation was the Northern Territory.

Water trading by farmers was up a little from the previous year with 6,446 agricultural establishments reporting purchasing extra water, an increase of 4.0%, and 4,748 establishments selling water, up 8.2%.

More details are in Water Use on Australian Farms 2004-05 (cat. no. 4618.0).

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.