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Derby Mudflats pictured from the air

Reliable access to water is critical to development. Like the south, northern Australia faces challenges in ensuring sustainable water supply in the face of increased climate variability and rising demand for water. However, compared with the south, there are substantial knowledge gaps around northern water systems.

Key priorities for the Office of Northern Australia include increasing the amount of readily available data on northern surface and groundwater systems and  working with governments and stakeholders to understand how these water resources might be sustainably developed.

Water Infrastructure Development Fund

The $500 million Water Infrastructure Development Fund has been established to facilitate greater investment in water infrastructure nationally. The Fund includes a dedicated northern component of $170 million. 

Expansion of Ord River Irrigation

The development and further expansion of the Ord River Irrigation area is a priority for the Australian Government.  The Office of Northern Australia is working with the Northern Territory and Western Australian governments on the potential expansion of the Ord irrigation area. Find out more at the Expansion of the ORD River irrigation scheme.

Previous Research and Initiatives

Northern Rivers and Dams – rapid assessment

To inform the White Paper, CSIRO completed a preliminary assessment (PDF 10.8MB) of river catchments across northern Australia to identify those that have the potential for increased irrigated agricultural production. 

North Queensland Irrigated Agriculture Strategy

The CSIRO Water Resource Assessment programme builds on the foundational research completed as part of the North Queensland Irrigated Agriculture Strategy.

Northern Australia Water Futures Assessment

The Northern Australia Water Futures Assessment was a multidisciplinary program delivered jointly by the Department of the Environment and the National Water Commission, in close collaboration with ONA and state and territory government agencies.

The assessment comprised the CSIRO Northern Australian Sustainable Yields project, as well as an ecological program, a cultural and social program and a knowledge base program. Find out more at Northern Australia futures assessment 

Northern Australia Sustainable Yields Project

CSIRO's Northern Australia Sustainable Yields (NASY) project produced critical information on historical, recent and likely future water availability in northern Australia. Find out more at Northern Australia Sustainable Yields.

Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce

In 2007 the Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce was convened to examine opportunities for the sustainable development of land and water resources in northern Australia.  The final report was released in February 2010 and was supported by a comprehensive review of existing land and water science in northern Australia by CSIRO. Read the publication at Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce.

Moving water long distances: Grand schemes or pipe dreams?

It has often been suggested that water should be harvested from Australia’s tropical north and transported south using trucks, canals or pipelines.  Although water transport projects may be technically possible, every study so far has found that such projects would have high energy, economic, social and environmental costs. Find out more at Moving water long distances: Grand schemes or pipe dreams?