Irrigators call for investment in water efficiency as part of national inquiry

Posted 11 April 2017

Wheat fieldAs Australia aims to serve as a food bowl for Asia, irrigators are calling on the Federal Government to recognise their contribution by addressing challenges such as water efficiency, energy costs and water buybacks. 

The National Irrigators’ Council (NIC) has told a parliamentary inquiry that the irrigated agriculture sector must be healthy, efficient and growing in order for Australia to capitalise on demand to the north.

CEO Steve Whan said NIC had made 12 recommendations to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources' inquiry into water efficiency.

“Our submission highlights the contribution irrigators have made and the way future water efficiency programs should be run to enhance agricultural productivity and economic benefit, while at the same time achieving healthy rivers and a healthy environment,” Whan said. 

“As the Murray Darling Basin plan continues to be implemented, we have asked the committee to: recognise the negative impacts on communities of taking away productive water; to acknowledge the importance of achieving environmental outcomes, not just water targets; and to recognise that efficient and sustainable irrigation can grow in Australia to help meet the nation’s food and fibre production objectives.

“We have also raised with the committee the major problem of electricity prices for irrigated agriculture and the fact that more efficient water use often means higher electricity use.”

Whan said helping to meet global food demand over the coming years would serve as a key driver for the Australian economy and job market.  

“Global demand for food is expected to increase by 35% from 2007 levels by 2025, with 60% of that growth in China and India. A big part of that increased demand will be in key irrigated products, dairy, and fruit and vegetables,” he said. 

“Australian governments and Australian people see supplying that demand as one of the key ways Australia will generate its export income and jobs in the future.

“Australian irrigators have made huge strides in water efficiency – they are now among the world’s most efficient. That’s not just driven by government-funded programs; it also involves industry investment, crop research and innovation.”