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Stock water dam, Sidonia, Victoria.

Water is a precious commodity in agricultural production systems. Healthy rivers, creeks and streams are the arteries of the Australian environment, sustaining many different plant and animal communities, agricultural enterprises and rural communities. Without healthy water bodies, Australia does not have a sustainable future.

The Australian wool industry is committed to continuous improvement in water management. AWI invested in research to develop and extend better and more effective ways to manage water resources on woolgrowing farms.

78 per cent of Australian woolgrowers have properties adjoining at least one waterway [Land, Water & Wool Best Practice Survey 2003].  Water stored in the soil supports pasture growth which helps retain carbon and nitrogen in the soil. Healthy soils and adequate nutrients are two basic elements of any successful grazing system actively managed by woolgrowers.

Drinking water for sheep mostly comes from rain that fell on the property and is held in dams and tanks, not town water supplies. Few wool sheep graze irrigated pastures in Australia, and where they do, it is mainly for meat production, i.e., finishing lambs.

Water intake per kilogram of wool grown depends on climate (mainly temperature), food intake (quality and quantity), sheep size, distance to water and other factors such as lactation. A preliminary lifecycle analysis of the wool supply chain study estimated that up to 37% of the water used to produce 1kg of finished wool fabric was used on-farm. AWI's full lifecycle analysis of on-farm wool production is expected to refine these figures.