How do we really manage our agricultural water usage? Although agriculture accounts for over 65% of total water use, how do we manage it?

Agriculture accounts for 65% of total water usage in Australia and with the Australian climate being so dry this figure will continue to increase unless we have a look at our water usage and management.

Droughts are prevalent in Australia and this decreases the productivity of the land. Farmers then rely on irrigation to grow their crops, however this takes up a lot of our water and varies from state to state;

Here we are able to see the states which use the most water for agriculture across the country. Also the variable climate conditions in Australia depending on the seasons make it hard to predict when water scarcity will be an issue which makes it even more important to plan and manage water efficiently.

In Australia the government implemented two main acts after the millennium drought to ensure a sustainable future. They invested $12.9 billion into 10 years of water reform through the Water act 2007 and the Basin plan 2012 to prepare Australia for future water scares. One large act was the Water Act 2007 which focuses on:

  • enhancing water markets
  • reducing over allocation of water (particularly in the Murray Darling Basin)
  • returning water to environment
  • improving water management and planning during millennium drought.

Another large plan which works alongside the Water Act is The Basin Plan 2012 which is a legislation which guides government, regional authorities and communities to manage and use water of Murray-Darling Basin sustainably and ensure that it is shared between all users. These are working in conjunction very effectively however the government needs to work on reducing the costs by $1 billion per year.

One example of a successful management strategy in Australia in place is in Warragamba Dam. In this dam the management strategies are very rigorous. In order to control the contamination of their water they undertake pest control, erosion control so that sediments do not flow into the river and also hazard reduction burns to ensure that if there is a bushfire the ash does not settle into the water. They also provide education for farmers on issues like this to prevent the contamination of their water which flows into the dam. Another way they help the farmers is by providing grants to build fences and water troughs to result in less germs from the animals in water and less sediments from erosion. By doing these things they are not only protecting their water but also the farming water, which then flows down into the dam.

One country where they are struggling heavily with a water crisis is India. Here they are facing large challenges such as:

  • disputes on reservoir releases
  • over exploitation of groundwater resources
  • degradation of wetlands
  • shortages to drinking water supply
  • water running out for agriculture which leads to economic growth decrease.

A major share of the water is being used for irrigation and with an increasing need for water in the non-agricultural sectors the pressure on water suppliers is increasing.

One strategy which the government has implemented is the Twelfth Plan which proposes a fundamental change in the principles, approach and strategies in India. Some of these ideas include:

  • A large irrigation reform as irrigation takes up a large amount of water usage
  • A large irrigation reform as irrigation takes up a large amount of water usage
  • A participatory aquifer management and water database development
  • Improved industrial water use efficiency
  • Mandatory for companies to include water usage details in annual report
  • The India Water Tool which is a free inline tool on groundwater availability and quality

India has the world's worst water quality

The Australian Government is planning for the future so they do not run into a lot of trouble with their water, similar to what has happened to India. They are doing things such as a review of the water charge rules, infrastructure, termination fees and planning and management information, which will be undergone by ACCC. They are also going to be reviewing of both plans in 2026 as current plans will not take full effect until 2019 and there is a need to secure future water security

There are some groups in Australia which assist with water usage and management such as Landcare Australia and Rural Water Network Australia. Landcare Australia leads the promotion and provision of financial services to community groups, farmers they are a non-for-profit organisation and registered charity who work with the government, communities and sponsors. Individuals are able to join a Landcare group across the country and assist with their projects yearly. Rural Water Network Australia is a national platform for the exchange of research findings related to Water Resources Management promoting sustainable water management in rural and urban regions of Australia. They work with irrigation water management, flood control, water resources management, environmental water management, drainage and reuse.

Agriculture plays a big factor in water usage in Australia therefore we need to make sure that we are using sustainably and are able to manage it efficiently.

Credits:

Created with images by wobogre - "nature landscape field" • ibsut - "Warragamba Dam"

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