WIT Press

Analysing The Drivers Of Irrigator Drought Strategies In The Southern Murray Darling Basin


Free (open access)





Page Range

597 - 607




368 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


A. Zuo, S. Wheeler & H. Bjornlund


During the 2000s there has been severe and ongoing drought in the southern Murray Darling Basin, with irrigators facing considerable cuts to their water allocations corresponding with a period of falling commodity prices. Ongoing work has suggested that strategies such as the buying and selling of allocation and entitlement water, the buying and selling of land, reducing the area under irrigation, changing crops and adopting more efficient irrigation infrastructure all have played differing roles in allowing farmers to cope with drought and manage farm viability. This study analyses the influences on irrigator strategy choice during this period of drought; in particular it seeks to answer why some irrigators choose to follow mainly intensive strategies (such as buying land/water, increasing irrigation area and adopting infrastructure), while others choose predominantly defensive strategies (selling land/water and decreasing irrigation area). Two key irrigation areas are studied, the Riverland in South Australian and the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District in Victoria, using 624 telephone surveys from 2008-09. The two irrigation areas are not homogenous, and there are different influences on irrigators’ strategies. Irrigator characteristics, farm characteristics, attitudes and off-farm income all play important roles. Keywords: drought strategies, water, Australia, irrigators, intensive, defensive. 1 Introduction Water scarcity is intensifying in many irrigation regions in semiarid parts of the world. This increased scarcity is partly caused by an increase in and intensification of drought events but is also policy induced as governments have


drought strategies, water, Australia, irrigators, intensive, defensive