Modelling The Potential Of Dam And Surface Water Irrigation Development In Northern Australia
Water scarcity in southern Australia and an imperative to develop regional economies have combined to renew focus on the potential for irrigated agricultural development in Australia’s largely undeveloped and sparsely populated north. More than 2 billion potential dam sites across northern Australia (an area of ~3 million km2) were assessed in a consistent and objective manner, using the DamSite model; the largest comprehensive assessment of large dams undertaken globally. Simultaneous consideration was given to large dams and their proximity to land physically suited to the development of irrigated cropping and horticulture. Physical resources (soil, surface water and potential large, in-stream dams) sufficient to support about 1.34 million ha of irrigated agriculture exist in northern Australia. This would require use of the entire yield from 8 existing dams (including the Burdekin Falls and Ord River dams) and the construction of 77 new dams and a large number of reregulating structures (e.g. weirs). If realised this would result in a ~50% increase in Australia’s area under irrigation. In reality a range of regulatory, political and socio-economic factors will considerably constrain the upper physical limit to dam and irrigation development stated in this paper.
Index Terms - Water Storage, Development, Hydrology, Agriculture, Yield, DamSite.