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Water resources & irrigated agricultural development in northern Australia

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  1. Water resources & irrigated agricultural development in northern Australia Cuan Petheram, Ian Watson & Peter Stone
  2. Outline Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  3. Water is a finite resource Water withdrawal to availability ratio [http://www.cropscience.org.au/icsc2004/plenary/1/1994_rijsbermanf-2.gif] [Alcamo et al., HSJ, 2003] Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  4. Water availability and distribution will change Modelled change in future mean annual runoff (2090–2099 relative to 1980–1999) Hydrologic variability will be enhanced:- [Milly et al., Nature, 2005] [IPCC, 2007] [Bates et al., IPCC, 2008] Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  5. Demand for water will continue to increase Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  6. Globalisation of water 1 kg cheese 5000 L 1 pair leather shoes 8000 L 1 kg beef 15,0000 L 1 apple 70 L 1 glass wine 120 L 1 cup coffee 140 L Mekonnen and Hoekstra (2011) Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  7. Outline Has Australia sufficient resources to meet its current and likely future demands Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  8. Has Australia sufficient water resources? CSIRO (2011) Water: science and solutions for Australia. Ed. IP Prosser Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  9. Availability of water across Australia Percentage of surface water used Availability of surface water Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  10. Outline What are the opportunities in northern Australia? Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  11. Flow characteristics of rivers in northern Australia Rainfall in NA is highly seasonal (>80% wet season) Streamflow in NA is twice as seasonal than SA Rainfall in NA has a high inter-annual variability (~30% higher than the RoW of same climate type) The inter-annual variability of streamflow in NA is 2-3 times greater than the RoW of same climate type. Petheram, McMahon & Peel (2008) Flow characteristics of rivers in northern Australia: implications to development. Journal of Hydrology 357(1-2), 93-111. Morning Glory cloud formation taken from a plane near Burketown, southern Gulf of Carpentaria. Source: Mick Petrov Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  12. If we put aside social, economic, cultural and environmental considerations, how much water could we actually use? Dry season waterhole in Flinders River Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  13. Rainfall volume Petheram, McMahon, Peel, & Smith (2010). A continental scale assessment of Australia's potential for irrigation. Water Resources Management, 24 (no. 9): 1791-1817. doi: 10.1007/s11269-009-9525-z. Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  14. Percentage of Australia’s precipitation that occurs in the south and the north and south of Australia Petheram, McMahon, Peel, & Smith (2010). A continental scale assessment of Australia's potential for irrigation. Water Resources Management, 24 (no. 9): 1791-1817. doi: 10.1007/s11269-009-9525-z. Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  15. Percentage of Australia’s runoff that occurs in the south and the north Petheram, McMahon, Peel, & Smith (2010). A continental scale assessment of Australia's potential for irrigation. Water Resources Management, 24 (no. 9): 1791-1817. doi: 10.1007/s11269-009-9525-z. Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  16. Percentage of streamflow that could potentially be ‘exploited’ Gulf of Carpentaria Estimates of exploitable water were made at the point of lowest practical downstream development Timor Sea North East Coast 27% 14% 7% 27% 6% 3% These estimates do not take into account economic, social, cultural or environmental considerations MDB SE Coast 4 43% 51% 36% 31% Tasmania 66% AWRC (1987) Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  17. Percentage of Australia’s ‘exploitable yield’ that occurs in the south and the north Ignoring social, economic, cultural and environmental considerations Petheram, McMahon, Peel, & Smith (2010). A continental scale assessment of Australia's potential for irrigation. Water Resources Management, 24 (no. 9): 1791-1817. doi: 10.1007/s11269-009-9525-z. Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  18. Percentage of Australia’s ‘potential irrigated area’ that occurs in the south and the north Ignoring social, economic, cultural and environmental considerations Petheram, McMahon, Peel, & Smith (2010). A continental scale assessment of Australia's potential for irrigation. Water Resources Management, 24 (no. 9): 1791-1817. doi: 10.1007/s11269-009-9525-z. Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  19. Including Tasmania Excluding Tasmania Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  20. Including Tasmania Excluding Tasmania Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  21. Outline Flinders and Gilbert agricultural resource assessment Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  22. Why focus on northern agricultural development? declining national agricultural productivity growth growing global food demand proximity to Asian markets growing in size & prosperity potential to add value to existing resources foundation for regional development Agricultural development in the north can simultaneously advance local, regional & national goals
  23. Not unexplored territory…
  24. Investment requires confidence the challenges and uncertainties of northern agriculture deter investment unlocking new investment requires renewed confidence and certainty... ...about the scale and nature of opportunity and risk Where do the major opportunities and risks lie?
  25. Six key issues tenure water soil agricultural production markets transport What are the challenges? What are the solutions?
  26. Six key issues tenure water soil agricultural production markets transport What are the challenges? What are the solutions?
  27. Water Establish confidence in volume & variability data to enable allocation to be maximised scale & reliability of resource to attract & unlock investment Establishing methods for most efficiently capturing, storing, distributing & using water optimising trade-offs between different water users & uses doing all this rapidly & economically Cost-effectively maximising the value that can be derived from water
  28. Soil Scarcity of soils information has made it difficult to identify priority locations for development estimate agricultural productivity Cost of acquiring reliable soils maps and data has been prohibitive Cost-effectively maximising the value that can be derived from soil
  29. Agricultural production investment is enabled by quantitative opportunity & risk assessment trial and error is prohibitively costly & inherently risky combine water, soils & climate data to estimate agricultural production potential & risk: locally &regionally Cost-effectively identify the local & regional scale & location of agricultural risks & rewards
  30. Flinders-Gilbert Agricultural Resource Assessment part of NQIAS 155,000 km2 >90% pastoral ca 7,200 people <1000 ha irrigated agriculture
  31. What have we done? Identified and evaluated soil & water resources; Quantified productivity & scale of irrigated agriculture opportunities; Quantified costs & benefits and their distribution amongst different users supporting sustainable whole of region development
  32. Why have we done it? The project was designed to simultaneously: address local development needs and aspirations, such as those identified by Gulf Savannah Development and the Mount Isa to Townsville Economic Development Zone (MITEZ) planning group, to grow irrigated agriculture and to intensify beef production in north Queensland; meet the information needs of governments as they assess sustainable and equitable management of public resources with due consideration of environmental and cultural issues; and meet the due diligence requirements of private investors, by addressing questions of profitability and income reliability of agricultural and other developments. NQIAS| Ian Watson| Page 32
  33. How have we done it? On-ground research, development and demonstration (RD&D) to establish the value of production, costs and risks, and to demonstrate and benchmark new production methods (e.g. husbandry) and systems (e.g. rotations). Regional scale geochemical and geophysical surveys to map surface and groundwater connectivity and salinity risks and assess key seasonal relationships such as pool persistence and discharge (during flooding). Mapping of land and soil suitability and production risks (floods and salinity) across the full range of establishment, management and harvest practices in agriculture, horticulture and pastoral production. Topographic mapping and automated terrain analysis to identify and evaluate water storage and development options. NQIAS| Ian Watson| Page 33
  34. How have we done it? Hydrodynamic and river system modelling to assess flood dynamics (extent, magnitude and duration), land suitability, groundwater connectivity and critical environmental functions. Assess potential environmental impacts under alternative water extraction, seasonal and climate change scenarios and review Indigenous water values. Economic and social cost/benefit analysis, including demands placed on key resources (e.g. hard and soft infrastructure, cultural values, competing industries) under a range of development scenarios. Information and data distribution through web-based information products (interactive mapping* and data downloads), reports and regular community‑based information sessions. NQIAS| Ian Watson| Page 34
  35. How have we done it? Engaging local skills & insights to meet local needs Joining the dots to inform development of a whole region, not just some its farms Devising a blueprint for supporting land & water developments in the north Linking local, regional & national development objectives
  36. Key findings despite close proximity, catchments vary very widely Flinders: farm dams can enable 10-20,000 ha of irrigation in 70-80% of years Gilbert: instream dams can enable 20-30,000 ha of irrigation in 85% of years significant water use would amplify ecological challenges of dry years, moderate impact in ‘normal’ years Identified resources sufficient to reliably add 30% to NA’s irrigation area
  37. Global findings soils often better & more extensive than previously considered water supply highly variable available water small % of total significant water capture opportunities limited in scale & distribution despite challenges, significant irrigated agriculture opportunities exist dryland agriculture viability depends on clear separation of opportunity & risk largely consistent with previous studies
  38. Gilbert key findings #1 – soil & land ca 2 Mha of soils (43%) moderately to highly suited to agriculture many sandy/loamy soils suited to intensive horticulture largest area of suitable soils above the confluence of Gilbert & Einasleigh rivers low flood risk, adequate water volume other suitable locations distributed significant area of suitable soils; sift to locate best soils
  39. Gilbert key findings #2 – climate 775 mm mean annual rainfall 1050 mm at coast 650 mm in SE of catchment 93% of rainfall falls in wet season 84% evaporates 13% streamflow 10% at mouth 1868 mm potential evaporation evaporation 2.4 x rainfall highest global variability for rainfall total (cv = 0.4) dry runs amongst most intense in Australia strongly water limited, water storage at a premium
  40. Gilbert key findings #3 – off farm water storage off farm most prospective water storage method ‘000s of dam site identified, 7 assessed in detail best 2 dam options yield 500 GL at dam wall Green Hills (172 GL at dam wall); 15 km to soil Dagworth (326 GL at dam wall); 80 km to soil 250 GL to crop, 25,000 ha irrigated land $1,600/ML at dam wall ($110/ML annuity) 50% higher at farm gate 6 best dam sites provides total 600 GL at dam wall 300 GL to crop, 30,000 ha irrigated land ca $3,000/ML at dam wall ($210/ML annuity) 50% higher at farm gate two most prospective in stream storages
  41. Gilbert key findings #4 – on farm water storage soils not generally well suited to on-farm storage dearth of clays near irrigable soil sands & loams seep most suitable soils occur where streamflow low seepage can be overcome at considerable expense significant on-farm water storage not a universal proposition
  42. Gilbert key findings #5 – cropping a wide range of annual crops physically possible dryland crops opportunistic 10, 3, 2 continuous irrigated cropping made possible by potential inter-annual storage of off farm dams reliability of acreage depends on relative size of storage & cropping program attractive gross margins possible for a wide range of crops irrigation reliable at optimal areas; dryland highly opportunistic
  43. Gilbert key findings #6 – integrated crop & beef potential to intensify and increase beef production change herd structure increase turn-off higher quality animals early weaning increase reproductive rates For example, 160 ha irrigated forage: 1,000 30 month brahmans 450 to 560 kg in 3 months net return ca $160,000 development cost business dependent profit is business model dependent intensify or diversify? do your sums
  44. Gilbert key findings #7 – ecology waterholes ecologically important much more numerous than in Flinders scattered disconnected predominantly surface-fed in stream dams impact ecology inundation of ‘of concern’ habitat impair fish passage change downstream flow regime marginal water turbidity change critical waterholes significantly clear sandy soils reduce likelihood of turbidity change but can be difficult to predict this effect possible to manage water impoundment to minimise ecological impact
  45. Gilbert summary a challenging agricultural environment highly variable climate significant irrigated agriculture potential two instream dams provide 725 GL storage (500 GL yield) @ 85% reliability up to 70,000 ha generating $130M pa significant dryland agriculture potential up to 2 Mha of potentially arable soil generating median $1,700M pa benefits, costs & risks of development clearly located & quantified significant reliable irrigation opportunity based on in-stream water storage
  46. Flinders summary a challenging agricultural environment highly variable climate significant irrigated agriculture potential multiple on-farm dams provide 350 GL storage @ 70-80% reliability up to 40,000 ha generating $80M pa significant dryland agriculture potential up to 8 Mha of potentially arable soil generating median $4,200M pa benefits, costs & risks of development clearly quantified significant irrigation opportunity based on off-stream water storage
  47. Thank you Cuan Petheram, Ian Watson and... Peter Stone Project Director, Northern Australia Development m +61 419 285 192 e peter.stone@csiro.au
  48. Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  49. Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  50. Meso-scale circulation patterns Monthly rainfall Flinders catchment Dry season Wet season Median rainfall Jan-Mar(Wet season) Source: Petheram and Bristow (2008) Towards an understanding of the hydrological factors, constraints and opportunities for irrigation in northern Australia: a review. CSIRO Land and Water Science Report Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  51. Seasonality of flowComparison of stations in northern Australia with RoW Monthly runoff Flinders catchment Petheram, McMahon & Peel (2008) Flow characteristics of rivers in northern Australia: implications to development. Journal of Hydrology. Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  52. Inter-annual variability of rainfall in northern Australia Increasing variability in annual rainfall Petheram, McMahon & Peel (2008) Flow characteristics of rivers in northern Australia: implications for development. Journal of Hydrology. Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  53. Inter-annual variability of flowCv of annual flow versus mean annual runoff Increasing variability in annual rainfall Increasing mean annual runoff Petheram, McMahon & Peel (2008) Flow characteristics of rivers in northern Australia: implications for development. Journal of Hydrology. Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  54. Distribution of annual flows Flinders catchment Mean annual flow ~ 2500 GL Median annual flow ~ 1200 GL Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  55. Percentage of Australia’s ‘exploitable yield’ that occurs in the south and the north Ignoring social, economic, cultural and environmental considerations 118,000 GL (30%) (not including transmission /distribution losses) Petheram, McMahon, Peel, & Smith (2010). A continental scale assessment of Australia's potential for irrigation. Water Resources Management, 24 (no. 9): 1791-1817. doi: 10.1007/s11269-009-9525-z. Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  56. Percentage of Australia’s ‘potential irrigated area’ that occurs in the south and the north Ignoring social, economic, cultural and environmental considerations and proximity of soil resources to water resources Petheram, McMahon, Peel, & Smith (2010). A continental scale assessment of Australia's potential for irrigation. Water Resources Management, 24 (no. 9): 1791-1817. doi: 10.1007/s11269-009-9525-z. Irrigation Australia workshop on northern Australia
  57. Products identified & quantified soil & water resources quantified productivity, scale & location of irrigated & dryland agricultural opportunities quantified financial & external costs, benefits & risks - and their distribution amongst stakeholders dynamic resource assessment = regional optimisation of development options blueprint for rapidly assessing future land & water developments in northern Australia trusted information = certainty = confidence
  58. Outcomes Public scale & clarity of opportunity = focused attention revised water plans: high probability of increased (x4) water allocation revised land use plans projects of state significance declared, approved Private reduced enterprise start up costs enhanced capacity to attract external capital; confidence to spend internal capital several large (>15,000 ha) developments commenced & planned; many smaller ones Numbers that public & private investors can trust
  59. Case studies case studies intended to provide a foundation from which to analyse and tailor specific regional development opportunities
  60. Case studies Gilbert Dagworth Dam & Green Hills Dam with sugarcane Green Hills Dam with cotton-peanuts-sorghum rotation Kidston Dam with Rhodes Grass Flinders O’Connell Creek with rice Cave Hill Dam with grain sorghum &abattoir Water harvesting with cotton, chick pea and other crops shrink-wrapped development possibilities
  61. Issues economic attractiveness alignment of management expertise water quality degradation secondary salinity blue-green algal blooms impacts on nationally significant environmental assets barriers to spp movement invasive species environmental water requirements, responses impacts on terrestrial biodiversity impacts on northern prawn fishery