4618.0 - Water Use on Australian Farms, 2017-18 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/04/2019   
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Water used on Australian farms in 2017-18

10.5 million megalitres of water were used by Australian farming businesses in 2017-18.

  • 2.3 million hectares of agricultural land was irrigated (up 2%)
  • 9.7 million megalitres (ML) of water was used to irrigate crops and pastures (up 7%)
  • 22 thousand farms applied water to their land (up 2%)


Water used to irrigate crops and pastures

Pastures and crops accounted for most of the water used on Australian farms in 2017-18. Irrigated cotton production and pastures for grazing were key contributors with increases in both area irrigated and volume of water applied.

7.2 million megalitres were applied to Crops (69% of all water applied)
  • cotton: 2.8 million ML (up 7%) was applied to 359 thousand hectares (up 10%)
  • sugar cane: 1.0 million ML (up 4%) was applied to 212 thousand hectares (down 0.1%)
  • rice: 733 thousand ML (down 22%) was applied to 61 thousand hectares (down 26%)
  • fruit, nut, plantation and berry fruit: 939 thousand ML (up 12%) was applied to 156 thousand hectares (up 10%)
  • grapevines: 474 thousand ML (up 9%) was applied to 124 thousand hectares (up 1%)
  • vegetables: 399 thousand ML (up 3%) was applied to 99 thousand hectares (up 1%)

2.5 million megalitres were applied to Pastures (24% of all water applied)
  • pastures and cereals fed off: 1.8 million ML (up 18%) was applied to 604 thousand hectares (up 1%)
  • pastures and cereals cut for hay: 478 thousand ML (up 4%) was applied to 134 thousand hectares (down 13%)
  • pastures cut for silage:194 thousand ML (up 8%) was applied to 71 thousand hectares (up 5%)

Image: Graph showing change in water application rates for rice, cotton, sugar, fruit and nuts, grapes, vegetables and pastures over the past five years




Murray Darling Basin

More than two thirds (70%) of all Australian agricultural water use was within the Murray Darling Basin region in 2017-18.

In 2017-18 in the Murray Darling Basin
  • 1.5 million hectares of agricultural land was irrigated (up 8%)
  • 6.8 million ML of water was applied (up 7%)

Cotton and Pastures for Grazing account for more than half of the water applied in this region.
  • cotton: 2.5 million ML (up 4%) was applied to 320 thousand hectares (up 4%)
  • pastures and cereals fed off: 1.2 million ML (up 26%) was applied to 395 thousand hectares (up 8%)
  • cereal crops for grain or seed (excluding rice): 527 thousand ML (up 32%) was applied to 293 thousand hectares (up 53%)

Image: Graph showing change in area watered and volume of water applied to the Murray Darling Basin over the past five years