Farmer cleaning his dairy farm


Water is a critical resource for the dairy industry in all farming systems, from pasture based systems, to irrigated systems and housed animal systems, as well as for manufacturing.

The industry is increasing its focus on wise water use. Its goal is to increase water use efficiency by: improving water productivity; active monitoring of water consumption; using recycled water; and developing water security management plans.

Case study

Read how one farmer is making changes for the better and encouraging others to do the same.

Andrew Murphy

Dairy farmer, Kyabram (VIC)

At Andrew Murphy’s farm in Kyabram, being more water efficient is where they’re putting their efforts. From using ground moisture meters to determine when the soil needs irrigating, to choosing more water efficient crops, it’s these changes that Andrew says make both environmental and business sense.

Andrew also wants to empower farmers and his message is clear. “Don’t be overwhelmed by trying to run your business and be more environmentally sustainable,” he says. “They go hand-in-hand and you’re probably already taking steps, like managing your effluent, planting trees or fencing off water ways. Building on what’s achievable for you, over time, will ensure you’re looking after the land for future generations.”

Andrew Murphy Dairy farmer, Kyabram (VIC) 
Photo Credit - Rodney Woods


How water-wise is your diet?

The global food system accounts for around 70% of total freshwater use. Prolonged drought, water restrictions and the predicted impacts of climate change have increased awareness of water use in our cities and towns, and now increasingly Australians are asking about the water needed to produce the food they eat.

Research recently conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has tried to quantify this to help determine the water impact of different diets. By looking at both the amount of water used to produce a food, and whether water was scarce or abundant at the location it was drawn from, the CSIRO has developed a measure of the 'water scarcity footprint'. 

The results were surprising, with 25% of the total water scarcity footprint coming from discretionary foods and beverages such as cakes, biscuits, sugar-sweetened drinks and alcohol. This was followed by fruit at 19% of the total. Dairy came in third. The CSIRO concluded that “cutting out discretionary foods would be number one priority if you wanted to lower the water footprint of the food you eat, as well as the greenhouse gas emissions of production”. 

Read a summary of the research here.

By continuing to work to reduce water use on farm and in manufacturing, the dairy industry is committed to reducing the ‘water scarcity footprint’ of our products, ensuring dairy can continue to hold a place in healthy and sustainable diets for years to come.

Dairy Australia initiatives

Smarter Irrigation for Profit

Smarter Irrigation for Profit is a national collaborative research, development and adoption project which is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. It aims to enable irrigators to improve their productivity and profit.

The first phase of the project (SIP1) was conducted between 2015 and 2018 and measured the outcomes of irrigation strategies and technologies on five dairy farms across the country.

The outcomes were significant for the dairy industry and all participating sites increased energy and water use efficiency, while increasing the amount of dry matter grown per hectare per day and overall yield within a specified irrigation period.

Dairy farmer Rod Bradley (Cressy, Tasmania) says of his experience “We’re putting the water where it needs to go, we’re using less power to do it, and we’re growing more grass.”

Read more examples of how farmers involved in the project have made changes on their farms here.

Smarter Irrigation for Profit 2 (SIP2) “What’s my yield gap? Improving water productivity” is being delivered from 2019 to 2022 and aims to fast-track adoption of SIP1 key findings through trials, measurement and benchmarking, and participatory action groups on 10 dairy sites on the mainland.

Sustainability across the Australian dairy industry

Read the latest Australian Dairy Industry Sustainability Report to see how we're making progress against all our goals and targets.