Tightening the Taps

Media Release
Released
18/11/2020

Less water was used in Australian agriculture in 2018-19 with lower rainfall across much of the country pushing up water prices and forcing farmers to shift from rice and cotton to less water-intensive crops.

Director of the ABS Centre for Environment and Satellite Accounts, Jonathon Khoo, said data from the latest edition of the annual Water Account, Australia, showed how the prolonged low rainfall had led to structural changes in agriculture.

“Agriculture remains the primary user of distributed water in Australia and drives aggregate demand. With low rainfall driving up the price of irrigation water, the value proposition of water intensive crops like cotton and rice decreases.

“A shift away from these commodities in 2018-19 resulted in less water being required for agriculture,” he said.

Households were not immune to water shortages.

“Household water use remained relatively steady at a national level, however, households in NSW tightened their taps and saw a 5 per cent reduction in average use per household.

“In 2018-19, the entire state of NSW was drought declared and water restrictions instigated. The data on distributed water use in NSW shows the impact of these overarching conditions.”

The 2018-19 data also shows how prolonged periods of low rainfall affected dam storage levels.

“Dams act like a bank that Australia can store its water assets in, drawing down the reserves for use in drier periods. However, 2018-19 saw these reserves running low.”

Further details can be found in the Water Account, Australia available as a free download from the ABS website www.abs.gov.au.

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