Northern Australia regions: Overview

  • Rainfall was average to above-average across most of northern Australia except for the Fitzroy region.
  • Storages in the Ord region reached their highest levels in the last three years.
  • Water taken for consumptive use reduced in all regions compared to last year.


Climate and Water

Rainfall across northern Australia during July 2020-June 2021 compared with historical records (1900-2021)


  • Above-average annual rainfall occurred over much of northern Australia, including the Ord and Daly regions. In the Burdekin region, rainfall was mostly average except in the north where it was above-average. In contrast, rainfall was below to very much below-average in the Fitzroy region. The total annual rainfall for this region was less than the long-term mean for the fourth consecutive year.
  • The early monsoon onset resulted in good rainfall total across the region during the 2020-21 wet season, which contributed to the above-average annual rainfall.
  • As La Nina established in the Pacific Ocean, October rainfall was unusually high across the region.


Percentage-full volume during 1 July 2013-30 June 2021 for northern Australian regions storages


  • End-of-year storage volumes in the Ord, Fitzroy and Burdekin regions increased from last year.
  • Storage volumes in the Ord region have increased for the first time in three years and on 30 June 2021 were at 76%.
  • In the Daly region, the wet conditions resulted in an annual increase in aquifer storage after three consecutive years of decreases.


Water sources and supply

Total water sourced in the northern Australian regions for 2020-21


  • Total water sourced across the northern Australia regions was 1,818 GL.
  • Surface water made up 81% of total water supply and was the dominant source of water in the northern Australia regions except for the Daly region.
  • Water supply in all four regions was lower than previous years. For the Ord, Daly and Burdekin regions, this decrease is likely to have been influenced by the wet conditions across these northern regions resulting in lower demand. For the Fitzroy, continued dry conditions meant water allocated for irrigation was reduced.


Users of water in the northern Australian regions for 2020-21


  • 37% of total water supply was used for irrigation schemes while 61% was for individual users, primarily for agricultural purposes.
  • In the Daly region, where there are no irrigation schemes, most of the water was sourced from the Tindall Limestone and Oolloo Dolostone aquifers for agricultural purposes.
  • In these sparsely populated areas, town water supply made up only around 1% of water use.