Economically, Australia’s irrigated agriculture is estimated at US $13 billion, with farm dams and water tanks contributing 13% of all agricultural water (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018a; Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018b).
Yet, most farm dams in Australia are relatively small (median capacity of 1.3 ML) and were built before the 1980s when the effects of climate change were less intense. These farm dams are the most vulnerable to drying out.
We studied the effects of ongoing trends in rain and temperature to find an increased risk of farm dams drying out, likely reducing their reliability in supporting agricultural activities. Our research shows that the frequency of empty farm dams has increased 2.5-fold since 1965 and will continue to increase across most (91%) of Australia. We estimated a 37% decline in rural areas with year-round water supplies in farm dams between 1965 (457,076 km2) and 2050 (285,998 km2).
We investigate ways to manage farm dams to support decision-makers by modelling and testing the economic, ecological, and environmental effects of water dynamics in farm dams under different climate change scenarios and the repercussions on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).