The land area devoted to dairying in the Goulburn Murray region has dropped by one third in less than 10 years, according to new studies released in Shepparton last night.
The reports also found the remaining dairy farms were heavily reliant on temporary water prices, as property owners sold off water allocations.
The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority report into land use and water paints a picture of dramatic change for the industry.
While Goulburn Murray irrigators owned a total of 1543Gl in high-reliability water in 2004-05, the volume dropped to about 1000Gl in 2015-16.
Dairy farmers are now using about 60 per cent more water than they own.
Farmers and communities in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District need to continue to adapt to changes in water supply and land use to remain competitive is one message to emerge from the reports.
Goulburn Broken CMA chief executive Chris Norman said the findings of the Regional Irrigated Land and Water Use Mapping and The Challenges and Opportunities of Changes to Water Availability on the Food and Fibre Sector reports provided solid data to inform decisions in the GMID.
‘‘There is now a huge weight of work that confirms, among other things, that less water is being used by irrigators across the GMID, that there is more demand for high security water from outside the region and irrigators are more reliant than ever on temporary water to meet their production needs and therefore are more exposed to higher water prices than in 2004-05 when we last did this level of in-depth analysis,’’ he said.
Read more in next week's Country News.