4618.0 - Water Use on Australian Farms, 2009-10 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/05/2011   
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11 May 2011
Embargoed: 11.30 am (Canberra time)

Agricultural water use rises, but remains at low levels

In 2009-10 total water used on agricultural holdings increased by 1% to 7.4 million megalitres, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The total area of agricultural land watered increased by 5% to 1.8 million hectares, and volume applied increased by 1% to 6.6 million megalitres. The average application rate was slightly lower at 3.6 megalitres per hectare.

The volume of water consumed by stock and for other purposes fell by 3% to 763,000 megalitres.

Area watered
New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania recorded increases in area watered. The largest increase was recorded in Victoria (up 70,000 hectares or 19%). New South Wales area watered increased by 9% or 47,000 hectares. The area of rice crop watered increased by 11,000 hectares, influenced by the availability of irrigation water in the Murray-Darling and Murrumbidgee catchment.

Volume watered
State level movements in volume applied were generally in line with movements in area watered. Victoria reported the largest increase in volume, up by 26% to 310,000 megalitres.

Irrigation rates
There were no major movements in irrigation rates, which were in line with historical values.

Number of businesses reporting water use
In 2009-10, there were approximately 41,000 farmers irrigating, which is similar to previous years. In each state, the proportion of farms irrigating closely matches that of previous years.

Area of holding compared to area irrigated
At the national level, the area irrigated is less than half a percent of the total area of holding. At state level, the proportion of area that is irrigated is similar to previously recorded data. The one key trend seen is the 18% increase in area irrigated in Tasmania, which has had a number of irrigation schemes commence in the past 6 years.

Other water use
The major other uses of water in agriculture are for cleaning purposes and stock drinking. Other water use in all states is historically consistent. The largest fall was in Queensland, which reflected the lower estimate of cattle in that state.

More details are available in Water Use on Australian Farms (cat no. 4618.0).

Media note:
When reporting ABS data the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or ABS) must be attributed as the source.