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Assessment of Crop Water Requirements for Sustainable Agriculture in Western Australia

IWRA World Water Congress 2017 - Cancun Mexico
6. Water and sustainable growth
Author(s): Ranjan Sarukkalige
Kyle Jones

Ranjan Sarukkalige
Curtin University
Kyle Jones
Curtin University

Keyword(s): Climate Change, Evapotranspiration, Crop Water Requirements, Water Use Efficiency, Sustainable Management.


Irrigation occupies a small portion of land in Australia, but provides enormous quantities of food and fibre for the nation. However, with the immense benefits comes the vast use of national water supply, occupying 65% of water consumed in Australia. At a point in time where resources are limited, the previous approaches of expansion by building new dams and desalination infrastructure is no longer sustainable. Consequently, the only solution to this problem lies with maintaining the current infrastructure we have and analysing water usages to provide better practices and procedures for more efficient use of water. The key objective of this study is to develop guidelines for sustainable agricultural practice, in the northern and eastern farming regions of the Western Australia named, Gascoyne, Ord and Wheatbelt. CROPWAT was utilised in this study due to its extensive and global use of estimating irrigation requirements for sustainable water management. Results indicated that the practical applications of water in the irrigation industry are exceeding crop water requirements. As a result, water was being overexploited and therefore management techniques needed to be employed to lower the water footprint. The primary focus of this research was to examine the two sustainable techniques of crop scheduling and rainwater harvesting that in turn amplified Western Australia’s water use efficiency in the agricultural sector. Outcomes of this study demonstrate that crop scheduling led to a water saving of 8.5, 0.6, 9.7 and 1.9 ML/ha for Banana, Cotton, Sugarcane and Rice respectively. By scheduling irrigation to meet the crop’s water requirements, savings proved to be colossal. In this case, the Western Australian agricultural impact was reduced from number one to third, behind the Mining and Household sectors. On the other hand, onsite rainwater harvesting did not provide any advantages, as evaporation and seepage water losses greatly exceeded the rainfall received in all areas. This study provides analysis of crop water requirements to develop universal sowing guidelines that utilise the most water efficient growing periods in the northern and eastern regions of Western Australia. By communicating this information through set management processes and guidelines, efficiency can be met and sustainability in the industry enhanced.

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