The sale of temporary water reached record levels in 2017-18, with NSW and Victoria among the biggest buyers.
An additional $201million was spent on temporary water last season according to new Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, up more than 85 per cent.
However, despite the significant increase in cost, it only equated to a 36 per cent boost in volume to 1700Gl.
Across the Goulburn Broken, North Central and North East catchments, more than 1487Gl of water was used.
The increase in water purchases were coupled with a jump in water use across the country in 2017-18, yet high water prices have driven water use down in 2018-19.
According to Goulburn-Murray Water figures from this year’s irrigation season, 1157Gl was delivered this season, down from 1405Gl in 2017-18.
ABS’s Agriculture Statistics director Lauren Binns said changing water availability and poor forecasts for rain in many regions influenced farmers’ crop selection and water use decisions through the 2017-18 financial year.
‘‘The volume of water used for irrigation was up seven per cent to 9.7million megalitres in 2017-18. The total area of crops and pastures irrigated in 2017-18 also increased, up two per cent to 2.3million hectares,’’ Ms Binns said.
‘‘Victoria saw both the largest increase in the volume of water applied as well as in the area irrigated; the volume of water applied increased 23 per cent to 2.2million megalitres and the area irrigated increased 19 per cent to 629000 hectares.’’
The volume of water applied to pastures and cereals used to feed livestock increased 18 per cent to 1.8million megalitres.
Reflecting the drier conditions, the area irrigated only increased one per cent to 604000ha.
Victoria reported the largest area of irrigated pastures and cereals used to feed livestock at 326000ha.
In 2017-18, there was a 13 per cent increase in the number of agricultural businesses purchasing extra water on a temporary basis.