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[Music plays and the camera pans over an aerial view of irrigated and dry landscape and the CSIRO logo appears]

[Images move through of an aerial view of a river, a tractor raking hay, a watering pivot, a male looking at a control board, and a male writing notes and working on a computer and text appears: Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment]

Narrator: Australia’s National Science Agency has conducted the most extensive study of the potential for agricultural development in northern Australia.

[Image changes to show a world globe featuring Australia and highlighting the Fitzroy, Darwin and Mitchell Catchments]

The assessment covered river catchments in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

[Images move through to show an aerial view of a river, men in a helicopter collecting water samples in bottles, men taking soil samples, and a close-up shot of the soil being assessed at different depths]

We investigated soil and water resources, water storage options and the commercial viability of irrigated agriculture.

[Images move through to show birds flying in a V formation, an egret standing in a riverbed, pink lily pad flowers on a river, a crocodile in a river and an aerial view of a riverbed]

We also looked at potential environmental and social impacts and engaged with indigenous people to understand their values, rights and interests in development.

[Image changes to show a map of Australia and the camera zooms in on the Fitzroy Catchment area and text appears: Fitzroy Catchment, Western Australia, Length 700 km, Catchment 94000 km², Annual rainfall 552mm]

The Fitzroy River in Western Australia is the largest of the three catchments assessed.

[Image changes to show an aerial view of riverbed and then the image shows an aerial view of a car driving across a bridge over the river]

Ninety percent of the region’s annual rainfall is in the wet season and it’s difficult to store with potential evaporation nearly three times the annual rainfall.

[Image changes to show an aerial view of a tractor raking hay and the camera zooms in on the front of the tractor, the side of tractor and the raking wheels]

Even so, we found there’s enough suitable land and available water to develop 1.7% of the total catchment.

[Images move through to show an aerial view of irrigated and dry landscape, an aerial view of a pivot, a side view of the pivot moving, and a side view of the pivot spraying, and text appears: 170 GL from groundwater could support 30000 ha of agriculture]

The lowest cost and risk comes from groundwater, most likely supporting small to medium scale forage development to supplement the existing cattle industry.

[Images move through to show a side view of water spraying from a pivot, the moving pivot wheel, the pivot nozzle spraying, an aerial view of a tractor baling hay, and the baler and text appears: 1700GL from the river or floods could support 160000 ha of irrigated agriculture]

Higher cost surface water harvested in on farm dams pumped from the river or collected from floods could support large scale irrigated agriculture.

[Images move through to show a bale rolling out of the baler, a male walking to the rear of baler, the male adjusting the bale net and then a row of bales and text appears: About $900m annually in gross value of production and about 5000 jobs]

We found the economic value of the region’s irrigated agriculture could potentially increase more than ten-fold, generating jobs and growing communities.

[Images move through to show aerial view of river from a helicopter, an underwater view of a sawfish and a hawk on a branch]

But future developments will have to take into account impacts on ecosystems downstream and diverse views on development.

[Image changes to show an aerial view of irrigated and dry landscape and text appears:]

To find out more about these assessments and the opportunities in northern Australia, visit the website.

[Music plays and CSIRO logo and text appears on a blue screen: CSIRO Australia’s innovation catalyst]

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Summary report

Case study report

Full catchment report

Technical reports for the Fitzroy catchment

Climate and earth observation

Surface and groundwater

Soil, agriculture and aquaculture

Water storage options



Proposed methods

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