Drip irrigation under grape vines.
Photo: J. Baker
Irrigated agricultural land comprises 0.5 per cent of all agricultural land in Australia. At $9 billion annually the gross value of irrigated agricultural production represents almost 25 per cent of Australia's gross value of agricultural production.
The Murray-Darling Basin is Australia's most important agricultural region and generates 44 per cent of Australia's gross value of irrigated agriculture production.
In an average year irrigated agriculture uses 14,000 gigalitres (GL) which is about 65 per cent of all water use in Australia. However, this water is not used as efficiently as it could be:
- between 10 and 30 per cent of the water diverted from rivers into irrigation systems is lost before it reaches the farm gate
- up to 20 per cent of water delivered to the farm gate may be lost in distribution channels on-farm and around 60 per cent of water used for irrigation on farms is applied using high volume, ineffective gravity irrigation methods
- around 10-15 per cent of water applied to crops is lost through over watering, whereas scheduling tools and observational data could more precisely match water application to crop water requirements
- inaccurate measurement of water diversions from rivers and water use on farms is leading to unintentional and intentional over use
The following programs involve irrigation modernisation:
- Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure – the overarching program investing $5.8 billion in key rural water projects that support sustainable irrigation communities and saving water by upgrading out-dated and leaky irrigation systems. Sub-programs include:
- Irrigation Modernisation Planning Assistance Program – helping irrigation water providers develop long-term, strategic modernisation plans for their districts
- On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program – aims to acquire water entitlements in return for infrastructure investments to improve the efficiency and productivity of on-farm irrigation water use and management.
- On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency (Pilot Projects) Program – tested delivery models for acquiring water savings from future on-farm works programs.
- Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operator Program in NSW – aims to acquire water entitlements resulting from water savings generated by projects that improve the efficiency and productivity of water use and management, both off and on-farm, by private irrigation infrastructure operators.
- Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operator Program in SA aims to acquire water entitlements resulting from improved off-farm and related on-farm efficiency in irrigation water use and management in the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin.
- Water Meter Test Facility Upgrading and Accreditation – investing over $600 million in more accurate water metering and monitoring.
- Northern Victoria irrigation renewal project stage 2
- Irrigation Hotspots Assessment Project
- Menindee Lakes and Aquifer Recharge
- Woodlane Irrigation Trust infrastructure upgrade
- Coleambally Irrigation Cooperative Limited's Water Smart Australia project (NSW Water Smart Australia project)
- Macalister irrigation district channel automation project (Victoria Water Smart Australia project)
- Measurement to improve water efficiency of on-farm storages in the cotton industry (National Water Commission)
- Improving irrigation efficiency in the cotton industry - a grower-led approach (National Water Commission)
- Development of the Technical Manual for Assessing Hotspots in Channel and Piped Irrigation Systems - project report – 2008
- Irrigation Hotspots Project - Fact sheet – 2008
- Technical Manual for Assessing Hotspots in Channel and Piped Irrigation Systems – 2008
- National Audit of On-farm Irrigation Information Tools – 2007
- National Needs and Gaps Analysis of On-farm Irrigation Information Tools – 2008
For up-to-date information about the Water for the Future initiative.