Media Release

Farmers investing in irrigation and water for the future

30 April 2014

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, said new research showed farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin were quickly becoming more efficient in their use of water and in the irrigation technologies they invested in.

The analysis in the research report, Irrigation technology and water use on farms in the Murray-Darling Basin, released today, was conducted by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).

"This research was designed to check that the investment successive governments have made in helping irrigators to achieve more efficient irrigation practices has been working," Minister Joyce said.

"Surveys have been undertaken to measure changes in water application and water technology adoption since 2006-07. The report shows that our farmers are investing in their own future and that the government's contributions through grant programmes and drought support have helped irrigators invest in more efficient and productive on-farm irrigation technologies for continued productivity and profitability.

"This is especially true for citrus, wine grape and vegetable producers in the Basin who have recorded an overall reduction in water application rates and a significant move away from flood/furrow or overhead sprinkler systems toward drip/trickle systems.

"These systems can be costly to install and so our farmers are balancing the desire to invest in efficient water infrastructure against the desire to invest in other areas that would increase productivity on-farm. They are making sound business decisions. 

"These irrigation systems are designed to last decades so irrigators need to make choices about how they use water and the technologies they employ with a view to the long-term.

"They also make choices about water application techniques year to year depending on the seasonal conditions."

Key findings in the report include:

  • 21 per cent of horticulture farms had on-farm irrigation infrastructure that is less than five years old compared with 9 per cent in 2006-07.
  • 15 per cent of horticulture farms had on-farm irrigation infrastructure that was older than 20 years, compared with 28 per cent in 2006-07.
  • The most commonly used irrigation system in 2011-12 was flood/furrow (57 per cent) and drip trickle (19 per cent).

The report is available on the ABARES website.