Accounting for water in northern Australia

Katherine River © Sean Lawrie

Katherine River in flood, Northern Territory. Courtesy: Department of Environment and Natural Resources, © Sean Lawrie

Reports for the northern Australian Burdekin, Daly and Ord regions of our 2016 National Water Account are now available, along with a northern Australia overview.
Applying the rigour and principles of financial accounting to water resources, the National Water Account gives detailed insight into Australia's water situation for the previous financial year for ten nationally significant water-use regions.
This insight informs policy, planning and decision making by governments and industry.
Northern Australia key findings for 2015–16 are:
  • Rainfall during January–March, typically the wettest part of the year, was below average for the Daly and Ord regions, and mostly average for the Burdekin region.
  • Sixty per cent of the water supplied to the three northern Australia regions was used for irrigation schemes, and 39 per cent went to individual users, primarily for agricultural purposes.
  • Fifty-three per cent of allocated surface water was diverted for use, while 37 per cent of the groundwater allocation was extracted.
  • Ten per cent of the total water sourced for use came from groundwater, with the remainder from surface water sources.
Region-specific findings for 2015–16 include:
  • Average rainfall conditions during the wet period improved inflows to storages in the Burdekin region and allowed for a reduction in water use by ten per cent, compared to 2014–15.
  • Dry conditions contributed to a decrease in aquifer storage in the groundwater-dominated Daly region, the fourth consecutive annual drop in aquifer storage for the region.
  • Dry conditions also prevented the normal filling and spilling of Lake Argyle in the Ord region during the wet season.
National Water Account regions are estimated to be home to more than 75 per cent of Australia's population, where about 70–80 per cent of the country’s water use occurs.
Urban centre reports for the Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, South East Queensland and Sydney regions will be available in late April, and the Murray–Darling Basin region and a national overview will be published mid-year.
We'd like to thank the many collaborators who help us prepare the National Water Account, including State and Territory governments, agencies, water utilities and other water organisations.