[Music plays and the camera pans over a wetland and the CSIRO logo appears]
[Image changes to show an aerial view of a river bed and then the camera pans along the river bed and text appears: Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment]
Narrator: Australia’s National Science Agency has led the most extensive, integrated study of the potential for agricultural development in northern Australia.
[Image changes to show a world globe showing the Fitzroy, Darwin and Mitchell Catchments on the map of Australia]
The assessment covered river catchments in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.
[Images move through of a flooded road, a 4WD travelling over the flooded road, an aerial view of a scrubby landscape, a male taking notes in a notebook and a male removing a camera from a tree]
We investigated soil and water resources, water storage options and the commercial viability of irrigated agriculture.
[Images move through of an aerial view of a scrubby landscape, water birds on a wetland and a hawk on the branch of a tree]
We also looked at potential environmental and social impacts and engaged with indigenous people to understand their values, rights and interests in development.
[Music plays and images move through of the Mitchell Catchment highlighted on a map and the Catchment counting up to 72000 km² and an aerial view of the Mitchell River and text appears: Mean annual rainfall averaged across catchment 996mm]
The Mitchell River has the largest annual stream flow of any river in northern Australia.
[Images move through of the Mitchell River and then the camera zooms in on a rushing torrent in the river]
However, about 95% of run off occurs during the wet season.
[Image changes to show a view of the Mitchell River and the camera pans along the river and then the image changes to show irrigated crops and text appears: Potential dams could release 2800 GL, which could support:]
Without suitable ground water, irrigation during the dry season will require surface water storage.
[Image changes to show water rushing and then the camera zooms out to show an open weir across an irrigation channel allowing the water to rush through and then the image changes to show a river]
Four of the more commercially favourable dams we’ve identified could support 140,000 hectares of year-round irrigation.
[Image changes to show water running into irrigation channels from a pipe and then the image changes to show a sugar cane crop growing and text appears: 140000 ha of irrigated agriculture]
Combined, these dams could irrigate up to 2% of the total catchment, including broadacre crops like sugar cane.
[Music plays and images move through of a crop irrigated with sprinklers, rows of trees, and hay bales in a freshly mown field and text appears: Water harvesting could support up to 200000 ha of agriculture]
Water harvesting could potentially irrigate one dry season crop per year and irrigated forage crops could supplement the existing cattle industry.
[Images move through of stockman moving cattle, a harvester and a chaser bin moving through a field, a car moving along a road, and a sign “Walsh River Ferguson Crossing” and text appears: About $720m annually in gross value of production about 7250 jobs]
We found the economic value of irrigated agriculture in the Mitchell catchment could increase three to four times, generating jobs and growing communities.
[Images move through of a road train moving along a road, an aerial view of the Mitchell River, shrubs at the river’s edge, a butterfly resting on a plant and a hawk sitting on a dead tree 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 looking down on sheds and irrigated crops and text appears: www.csiro.au/NAWRA]
To find out more about these assessments and the opportunities in northern Australia, visit the website.
[CSIRO logo and text appears on a blue screen: CSIRO Australia’s innovation catalyst]