TRaCK: Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge

Science and knowledge that governments, communities, industries for sustainable use of Australia's tropical rivers and estuaries

Socio-Economic Activity and Water Use in Australia’s Tropical Rivers: A Case Study in the Mitchell and Daly River Catchments

TitleSocio-Economic Activity and Water Use in Australia’s Tropical Rivers: A Case Study in the Mitchell and Daly River Catchments
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsStoeckl, N, Esparon, M, Stanley, O, Farr, M, Delisle, A, Altai, Z
Date Published03/2011
ISBN Number978-1-921576-37-9
KeywordsIndigenous and Non-Indigenous Economic Systems, Northern Development Scenarios, Water-use Input Output Models

Using an extensive array of data from several different sources, this report describes how water-use input-output models were firstly built and secondly used to explore the way in which Indigenous and Non-Indigenous incomes, employment, and consumptive water demand changes in response to the growth of different industries in two, remote, river catchments in Northern Australia (the Mitchell and the Daly). It finds that

1)    There is an asymmetric divide between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous economic systems in Northern Australia.  Given the lack of employment and business opportunities, workplace skills, and the other infrastructure prerequisites for development, local Indigenous people are very unlikely to benefit from the stimulus of any of the north’s existing industries.  This situation is likely to persist unless, or until, there is structural change.

2)    Some industries may be able to generate significant business income and/or incomes for some householders, but will not necessarily deliver localised benefit in terms of, for example, employment (be it Indigenous or otherwise).

3)    Water multipliers differ by orders of magnitude depending upon assumptions made about the numbers of litres of water consumed per dollar output particularly in the Agricultural sector.  This clearly highlights the fact that water-saving technologies are vitally important.

4)    Both Agriculture and mining are capable of generating significant income flows.  But, unlike growth in the government, health or educational sectors, growth in the agricultural sector  is associated with significant growth in consumptive water demand. 

Development strategists and/or policy makers may thus need to explicitly acknowledge both the monetary and non-monetary impacts of different development options (not all of which will be negative), seeking to identify ways in which to exploit synergies and redress tradeoffs.  This will allow policy makers to capitalise on opportunities that do not place un-due strain upon the region’s natural resources (water being but one of many important examples).   Where tradeoffs exist, policy makers may need to make conscious decisions about what it is they wish to ‘develop’ (e.g. Regional income or regional employment? Regional income or Australian income?).  Moreover, they may need to think about innovative methods of redressing some of the potential problems arising from tradeoffs, ensuring that the methods take account of the structural idiosyncrasies of these small northern economies (i.e. the asymmetric divide noted above).