Comparison between the 1985 and 2000 'snapshot' assessments is difficult. Factors include the time between assessments (more than 15 years); seasonality and variability of climate; significant potential for changes in land use; and fluctuations in domestic and global market demands.
Water Use, Climate and the Audit Baseline Year - 1996/97
The baseline year for the Audit is the 1996/97 agricultural year starting on the 1st April and ending on 31st of March. For water use the data was compiled for the period 1 July 1996 to 30 June 1997 (water calendar year). When it is necessary to collect information for more than one year, the data collected must cover that year or, alternatively, appropriately adjusted to provide a best estimate for that year.
For water use data States and Territories were requested to provide a 5 yearly average value based on the 1996/97 year. Use figures were adjusted in areas where, due to climatic conditions, the water use was not considered to be 'average'.
Climate in 1996/97
During 1996 there was a transition from the weak large-scale climate controls to a strong El Ni?o condition after March 1997. This resulted in a drying over a large part of southern and eastern Australia. From July until September 1996 Victoria had unusually cold and wet weather. The remainder of the southern half of Australia was also wet for three months. Significant areas in south-west Queensland, western and central New South Wales, South Australia, western Victoria, and southern Western Australia had rainfall totals within the highest 10% on record.
During the summer of 1996-97, there was a very active monsoonal season in the tropical zones in western Australia and the Northern Territory. However, this finished abruptly and early, as El Ni?o developed rapidly in autumn 1997. From October 1996 very dry conditions prevailed over most of Victoria, the grain belts of South Australia and north-east Tasmania. Areas of southern Victoria through to south-east South Australia had the driest October to June period on record.
May 1997 brought rain to southern Australia and average to above average rain to parts of Queensland. There was some relief to farmers from the dry and hot conditions over southern Australia in early 1997. In parts of southern Victoria and south-east South Australia the driest October to June period was reported. (ABS Water Account, 2000)
Climate in 1983/84 (Water Review 85)
Water use in any particular year is affected by weather conditions. For much of Australia, the period, July 1983 to June 1984, was equivalent to a normal year in which water use was about average. In south-east Australia, however, abnormal weather patterns were experienced. In general, rainfall totals throughout Victoria were high during the first half of the year but were lower than average in the second half. These weather conditions, along with a continuing sensitivity to water use following the 1982/83 drought, had a marked effect on water usage. Although the 1982/83 drought that affected most of Victoria was broken by above-average rains early in the year, water restrictions in many urban areas were not lifted until much later in the year. Urban water use was therefore less than average, due both to the heavy rains and to the continuance of water restrictions.
The above-average rains in the first half of 1983-84 greatly reduced irrigation demands, and by mid-season virtually unrestricted supplies of water were made available to farmers (for example, 200% of water rights in the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District). The drier conditions in the latter half of the year somewhat compensated for this, but total usage for the year was generally far less than average.
Rural usage was also less than average, again due to the early wet conditions and sensitivity about excessive water use following the 1982-83 drought. (DPIE, 1987).
Note: The change in water use volume from 1985 to 1996 does not always reflect factors affecting consumption patterns and volumes such as population growth, industry or land-use change or operational improvements. The observed difference may partly be attributed to differences in the approach and assumptions used to estimate water use within the river basin.
|Basin Name||Use in 1983-84 (GL /yr)||Use in 1996-97 (GL /yr)||% Change|
|Bathurst and Melville Islands||0||1||no data|
|Blyth River||0||0||no data|
|Calvert River||0||1||no data|
|East Alligator River||0||0||no data|
|Finniss River||0||1||no data|
|Fitzmaurice River||0||1||no data|
|Goomadeer River||0||0||no data|
|Goyder River||0||0||no data|
|Koolatong River||0||0||no data|
|Limmen Bight River||0||1||no data|
|Liverpool River||0||0||no data|
|Mary River (WA)||0||1||no data|
|McArthur River||0||1||no data|
|Moyle River||0||0||no data|
|Nicholson River||no data||2||no data|
|Robinson River||0||1||no data|
|Rosie River||0||1||no data|
|South Alligator River||0||0||no data|
|Towns River||0||0||no data|
|Walker River||0||0||no data|
|Wildman River||0||0||no data|
Note: The total surface water use reported for each river basin does not include the water consumption of the eleven major cities. The data for cities and river basins are reported in the State totals.
Table: Surface water diversion and allocation 1996-97
|Basin/SWMA Name||Allocation (GL/yr)||Diversion (GL/yr)||Diversion: Allocation (%)|
|Barkly||no data||1||no data|
|Bathurst and Melville Islands||no data||1||no data|
|Burt||no data||1||no data|
|Calvert River||no data||1||no data|
|Darwin / Blackmore Rivers||38||36||93|
|Finke River (NT)||no data||1||no data|
|Finniss / Elizabeth / Howard Rivers||1||1||113|
|Fitzmaurice River||no data||1||no data|
|Georgina River (NT)||no data||1||no data|
|Hay River (NT)||no data||1||no data|
|Keep River (NT)||no data||1||no data|
|Limmen Bight River||no data||1||no data|
|Mackay (NT)||no data||1||no data|
|Nicholson River (NT)||no data||1||no data|
|Ord River (NT)||no data||1||no data|
|Robinson River||no data||1||no data|
|Rosie River||no data||1||no data|
|Settlement Creek (NT)||no data||1||no data|
|Todd River||no data||1||no data|
|Victoria River||no data||2||no data|
|Warburton (NT)||no data||0||no data|
|Wiso||no data||1||no data|
Note: Allocation is not based on 1999-2000 estimates; Diversion based on five-yearly average 1996-97.
Note: In the table above, the total surface water use reported for each river basin does not include the water consumption of the eleven major cities. The data for cities are reported in the State totals. The volume diverted is the total volume of the SWMA's surface water resources diverted for use both within the management area and for export to other management area.
The total annual volume of surface water licensed for use in the NT is 52.5 GL. These licences have been issued for urban and rural water supplies, irrigation, aquaculture, and mining. For the Audit, the set limit on surface water extraction licences and entitlements have been reported as allocations.
At present, about 50.7 GL of surface water is used in the NT annually. This represents 0.46% of the sustainable yield of the resource.
Surface water use in NT is dominated by urban water supply, which use approximately 74% of total extracted water on average each year. Rural water supply accounts for 5%, Irrigation use accounts for 12% of total use and the cattle industry consumes approximately 6%. The remainder is consumed primarily for mining activities, and aquaculture. Most of the land under irrigation using surface water is located in Katherine River floodplain area within Daly River SWMA 814.
Please note: The tables set out below detailing Level 1 and Level 2 water use categories. The sum of the Level 2 water use volumes will not necessarily equal the total Level 1 water use volumes. This is primarily due to lack of more detailed water use data. However, where Level 2 use = Level 1 use then blank cells in the table does not indicate water use unaccounted for in these categories.
Table: Surface water use in Northern Territory 1996-97
|Basin/SWMA Name||Irrigation (GL/yr)||Rural (GL/yr)||Urban / Industrial (GL/yr)||Total (GL/yr)||In-situ (GL/yr)|
|Northern Territory||6||7||39||51||no data|
|Bathurst and Melville Islands||1||1||0||1||no data|
|Calvert River||0||1||0||1||no data|
|Daly River||4||1||3||8||no data|
|Darwin / Blackmore Rivers||1||1||0||1||no data|
|Finke River (NT)||0||1||0||1||no data|
|Finniss / Elizabeth / Howard Rivers||1||1||35||35||no data|
|Fitzmaurice River||0||1||0||1||no data|
|Georgina River (NT)||0||1||0||1||no data|
|Groote Eylandt||0||2||1||3||no data|
|Hay River (NT)||0||1||0||1||no data|
|Keep River (NT)||0||1||0||1||no data|
|Limmen Bight River||0||1||0||1||no data|
|Mackay (NT)||0||1||0||1||no data|
|Mary River||1||1||1||1||no data|
|McArthur River||1||1||1||1||no data|
|Nicholson River (NT)||0||1||0||1||no data|
|Ord River (NT)||0||1||0||1||no data|
|Robinson River||0||1||0||1||no data|
|Roper River||1||1||0||1||no data|
|Rosie River||0||1||0||1||no data|
|Settlement Creek (NT)||0||1||0||1||no data|
|Todd River||0||1||0||1||no data|
|Victoria River||0||2||0||2||no data|
Water supplies from groundwater resources have been developed to meet urban, rural domestic, pastoral, irrigated agriculture, mining, construction and aquaculture demands. In total, it is estimated that the annual use of groundwater in the NT is 144 GL.
Of the major population centres in the NT, Alice Springs and Tennant Creek rely entirely on groundwater, with Darwin and Katherine having ground and surface water supplies. Most all other smaller communities in the NT rely on groundwater supplies. Approximately 48 GL/year of groundwater is used for urban and industrial use. In rural areas where domestic production bores are the main source of water, approximately 8.5 GL/year is used. Regionally across the NT, the dominant use of groundwater is by the pastoral industry. Estimate of use based on cattle numbers is 23.5 GL/year. Irrigated agriculture and horticulture, which is predominantly in the Darwin and Katherine regions, uses approximately 47 GL/year. Use of groundwater by mines across the NT is estimated to be of the order of 17 GL/year, with the major user the Nabalco bauxite mine.
Data on water use is lacking in the NT. With the exception of borefield production figures from the water utility - the Power and Water Authority and Nabalco. It is recognised that improvements in metering or monitoring of groundwater use are required. As such, the above quoted estimates have been made from a variety of indirect means including crop area and per hectare use estimates, cattle stocking numbers and estimates of bore numbers and average rural domestic use.
"GMU"=Groundwater Management Unit "UA"=Unallocated Area
|Province||Use in 1983-84 (GL /yr)||Use in 1996-97 (GL /yr)||% change||Current Alloc (GL/yr)||Current Use : Alloc (%)||GMU / UA|
|Arafura||1||2||no data||no data||no data||GMU|
|Georgina||no data||59||no data||no data||no data||GMU|
|Great Artesian||no data||818||818||1,017||81||GMU|
|no data||no data||UA|
|Melville||no data||2||no data||no data||no data||GMU|
|Ngalia||1||1||no data||no data||no data||GMU|
|Pine Creek||no data||42||24||12||213||GMU|
|Tennant Creek||no data||1||no data||no data||no data||GMU|
Table: Groundwater use in Northern Territory 1996-97
|Province||Irrigation (GL/yr)||Rural (GL/yr)||Urban / industry (GL/yr)||In-situ (GL/yr)||Total (GL/yr)||SY (GL/yr)|
|Northern Territory||47||33||49||no data||128||6,455|
|Halls Creek||no data||no data||7||7||219|
|Ngalia||no data||1||no data||1||11|
|Tennant Creek||no data||1||1||1||29|
The current major joint groundwater and surface water use schemes are Water Supply for Darwin and greater Darwin area, and Katherine Town. The type of connectivity between the surface water and groundwater resources is Physical as well as Policy/Management.
There is likely to be no potential major joint schemes. However there is potential for many minor joint schemes for agriculture, and cattle industry within a SWMA, and the type of connectivity between the resources is only Policy/Management.
- Northern Territory Water Resources Assessment 2000 Report
- Northern Territory Water Resources Assessment 2000 Technical Report
- Link to data available for download on the:
- Link to the Map Maker to make a map using this information.
Links to an another web site
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