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Music plays and the camera pans down a river and the CSIRO logo appears]

[Images move through of an aerial view of a river, aquaculture areas, a tractor loading hay bales onto a truck, an orchard, and grasses poking through the surface of water 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 highlighted on the map of Australia on the globe]

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

[Images move through of a view of an irrigation channel from a helicopter, a male taking a water sample, a male working in a lab and a large water catchment area]

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

[Images move through of a male holding a fish, a male looking at cucumber, a cucumber on the vine, an orchard of fruit trees, a waterbird with wings spread, a crocodile, and a hawk taking off to fly]

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

[Images move through of a map of Australia with the Darwin Catchment highlighted and the camera zooms in on the area and text appears: Combined catchments area 30000 km²]  

Around Darwin, we investigated the four small catchments of the Finniss, Adelaide, Mary and Wildman Rivers.

[Image changes to show a boat moving along a river and then the image changes to show a car travelling along a road past a sign “Welcome to the Wetlands Region” and text appears: Averaged annual rainfall 1423 mm]

Rainfall here is more reliable than other parts of northern Australia.

[Image changes to show water lilies on a water surface and then the image changes to show mangroves on the banks of a body of water]

However, the challenge is how to store water above ground for irrigation in the dry season.

[Images move through of a view looking down a river and the camera pans along the river, a flat swampy area, and then a river, and text appears: 436 GL from new dams could support:]

We found there’s potential for dams at Mount Bennett on the Finniss River and on the upper Adelaide River.

[Images move through of a person looking at mangoes growing on a tree and then the camera zooms in on a ripening mango and text appears: 40000 ha of mangoes or 60000 ha of vegetables]

Together these dams could irrigate up to 2% of the combined catchments area.

[Music plays and images flash through of a fruit orchard, water storage areas, hay bales in a field, a tractor loading the bales, cucumbers on a vine, and an Asian vegetable on a vine and text appears: 600 GL from offstream storage could support 50000 ha of agriculture, 35 GL from groundwater could support 7800 ha of Asian vegetables]

Off stream storages in the Mary and Adelaide catchments could support further agricultural development and new groundwater resources could support additional trickle irrigated vegetable production.

[Images move through of aerial views of aquaculture ponds, a turbine moving water around, and fish moving along a conveyer belt and into a tank and text appears: 420000 ha available for lined ponds for aquaculture]

There’s also opportunity to expand the aquaculture industry.

[Music plays and images flash through of employees loading fish into large boxes, the fish in the boxes, Asian vegetables in an orange tub, and an employee stacking boxes and text appears: About $2.3 bn annually in gross value of production and about 3000 jobs]

Darwin has the community infrastructure to support irrigated agriculture development which would bring increased economic value for the region and jobs.

[Images move through of a flock of galahs on a dead tree, an egret wading in water, a crocodile in the water, and a wetland area]

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

[Music plays and image changes to show aquaculture ponds and text appears:]

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]

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Summary report

Case study report

Full catchment report

Technical reports for the Darwin catchment

Climate and earth observation

Surface and groundwater

Soil, agriculture and aquaculture

Water storage options



Proposed methods

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