The recent drought in south-eastern Australia saw the lowest inflows on record in the Murray-Darling Basin in 2006. As reservoirs were drawn down water availability for irrigation was cut. In 2007-2008 and 2008-2009, irrigators received about one third of their pre-drought allocations. Understanding how the irrigation sector adapted to less water will help planning for the next drought and a future in which irrigation water use will be reduced permanently in the basin.
The aggregate responses that we report are consistent with reported data on strategies used by irrigators to adapt to less water, including water trading, input substitution, changes to crop mix, and improvements to technology leading to reduced water application rates and yield increases. These responses likely also provide some insight on how irrigators will adapt to future more permanent reductions in irrigation water and assist in the identification of constraints to adaption.