Impact of global warming on the irrigation industry

Evidence of changes in weather pattern, largely attributed to global warming, is a major concern around the world. Over the last two decades in Australia, an increase in the frequency and duration of droughts and the resulting depletion of water resources have now begun to affect Australian agricultural production and the country's economic bottom line.

Whether global warming is the result of human activity or simply that of a natural cyclic phenomenon is an academic point; the fact remains that solutions to the problem of water shortage must be found and implemented to palliate its effects. Governments at local, state and federal level have initiated enquiries into water usage and agricultural irrigation has become the focus of intense scrutiny in this process.

Scientific research points at the need to develop more efficient irrigation methods and to replace what it regards as wasteful practices such as open irrigation channels, flood irrigation and flooding pastures. Although these methods have proven effective in the past, the current and projected rise in temperature which exacerbates evaporation makes moisture delivery much less efficient.

Indeed, many technical developments took place during the last 20 years; drip-irrigation, pivots and lateral irrigation systems are common, travelling irrigators are used extensively, but more can and need be done on the agricultural front if depleted water resources are to be conserved.

Therein lies the challenge for the irrigation industry to actively participate in the development of new, adaptive technology and methodology. While such endeavour appears to be incumbent on agricultural science, manufacturers, retailers and installers of irrigation equipment have much to contribute to the quest for practical solutions.

Irrigation specialists are the logical collectors of feedback from their customers. Their practical experience and regional knowledge of local water resources and usage put them in a privileged position. They can provide valuable advice to the various bodies whose task it is to search for remedial strategies in agricultural irrigation practice.

The impact of global warming thus fundamentally propels irrigation specialists from their traditional technical role to that of advisory resource on which the future of agriculture may partly rest. In that respect, the National Water Group takes a proactive approach to the industry's participation in countering the effects of climate change.