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Northern Australia Irrigation Futures

This project will deliver a framework for use by policy makers, regulators, managers, and investors to ensure irrigation is developed in a sustainable manner across northern Australia. Stage I of the project will involve development of the full project team, key client/stakeholder/collaborative network, and detailed work plan and budget. Stage II will involve carrying out the work plan agreed to in Stage I.

The project will use past experience and new knowledge to build an understanding of key landscape attributes (including soil and water resources, climate, vegetation, rivers, near shore marine environments) relevant to sustainable irrigation in tropical systems. This knowledge will be used to deliver a framework based on sustainability indicators and management criteria at a range of scales (field, farm, district, scheme, and catchment) to support planning, development, implementation and management of new schemes, and if necessary, modification of existing schemes across northern Australia.

An economic analysis was carried out on this project, looking at the following benefits: productivity and profitability; environmental; and social.


  • To delineate key landscape attributes (including soil & water resources, climate, vegetation, rivers, near shore marine environments, & where appropriate links to people, industries, markets) relevant to ecologically sustainable irrigation across northern Australia.
  • To use key landscape attributes to develop sustainability indicators and associated management criteria covering a range of scales (field, farm, district, irrigation scheme, catchment) for northern Australia.
  • To develop an overall framework that, through their involvement, is embraced by policy makers, regulators, investors and managers, to help ensure any irrigation is managed in a consistent, ecologically sustainable manner in northern Australia.
  • To use a number of linked case studies and stakeholder input to support and inform development and testing of the framework.
  • Through provision of a robust framework, contribute tools and knowledge to support considered debate, decision making and long term strategic planning for northern Australia & Australia as a whole.


  • A more informed and knowledgeable community and irrigation industry able to capture advantage of key biophysical and socio-economic features when designing and implementing irrigation developments in northern Australia
  • Whole of system irrigation management practices that meet catchment goals thereby safeguarding the health and services of surface and groundwater systems, wetlands, estuaries and marine environments
  • Regional adoption of new State policies that support development and management of sustainable irrigation schemes and practices
  • A sustainable irrigation industry in northern tropical Australia that delivers a wide range of economic and social benefits whilst minimising environmental impacts


Irrigation is fundamental to the Australian economy and the reality is that further irrigation developments will occur in northern (tropical) Australia. An opportunity exists to address new developments in a proactive way by designing irrigation systems to fit specifically within the northern Australian environment, thereby minimising the risk of mistakes and problems experienced by irrigation schemes in other parts of the country.

Publications and Resources

None listed


Land & Water Australia. 2008. Northern Australia Irrigation Futures. [Online] (Updated March 9th, 2010)
Available at: [Accessed Wednesday 23rd of October 2013 03:30:08 PM ].

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Project ID:


State & NRM Region(s)

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id: 2219 / created: 16 June, 2008 / last updated: 09 March, 2010