Policy & Reform
Water for agriculture – why we irrigate in the MIA
As a scarce resource, water needs to be used in the most effective way possible, balancing the needs of the environment, economic and social uses of water. It is necessary for the production of food and fibre to supply the needs of Australian consumers and our export markets.
The MIA is fortunate to have natural features including soils, landscape and infrastructure which allow us to irrigate agriculture in a highly efficient manner. Irrigated agriculture in our region offers excellent ‘value for water used’. It also enhances some environmental outcomes in the region, for instance creating breeding environments for the endangered Australasian bittern.
What does irrigation water achieve?
Irrigated agriculture in the Murray–Darling Basin makes an important contribution to the Australian economy and regional economies. Irrigation occupies a very small portion of Australia – 5% of tilled agricultural lands – but produces 30% of all agricultural production.
The Murray Darling Basin alone supports 9,200 irrigated agriculture businesses producing $22 billion worth of food and fibre annually. Each business supports their local economies, provide employment, underpin local social capital and provide land management services. Irrigation in the region has an economic multiplier of 3.5, indicating that for every $1,000 of farm gate revenue generated there is an additional $3,500 of dependent economic activity.
Our MIA region is home to a variety of irrigated farm enterprises, including vegetable crops, tree and vine crops, pastures for grazing, hay, rice, cotton, cereals and oilseed crops. Irrigation underpins a thriving regional community and contributes significantly to the economic output of NSW by producing clean, high quality food and fibre.