Water used for irrigation falls 21% in 2019-20

Media Release
Released
14/05/2021

Above average temperatures and drought across much of the country resulted in a 21 per cent fall in the volume of water used for irrigation in 2019-20, according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

ABS Director of Agriculture Statistics, Sarah Kiely, said: “The volume of water used for irrigation in 2019-20 dropped to 5.7 million megalitres (ML). The total area of crops and pastures irrigated also fell, down 22 per cent to 1.5 million hectares.”

Ms Kiely said farmers’ crop selection and water use decisions were influenced by the prevailing conditions of high temperatures, below average rainfall and reduced water availability through the 2019-20 financial year.

“New South Wales reported the largest decrease in the volume of water applied to crops and pastures, down 49 per cent to 1.3 million ML.

“Of all irrigated crops, cotton reported the largest decrease in the volume of water applied, down 71 per cent to 379,600 ML compared to the 1.3 million ML applied in 2018-19," Ms Kiely said.

The Murray Darling Basin region accounted for almost half of all water used for irrigation in 2019-2020, reporting large decreases in the volume of water applied.  Water applied was down 39 per cent to 2.7 million ML, with the area irrigated decreasing 35 per cent to just over 700,000 hectares.

Ms Kiely said that fruit and nuts were the only crops to report any notable increase in the volume of water applied in 2019-20, up 7 per cent to 1 million ML. “Fruit and nut farmers needed to irrigate more to produce (viable) crops and to keep trees alive in unfavourable conditions”.

Further information can be found in Water Use on Australian Farms, 2019-20.

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