Influencing sustainable water use in Australian irrigated agriculture: a value chain management approach

McVeigh, John (2012). Influencing sustainable water use in Australian irrigated agriculture: a value chain management approach PhD Thesis, School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2016.475

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Author McVeigh, John
Thesis Title Influencing sustainable water use in Australian irrigated agriculture: a value chain management approach
School, Centre or Institute School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2016.475
Publication date 2012-11-09
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Ray Collins
Total pages 221
Language eng
Subjects 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management
1503 Business and Management
1505 Marketing
Formatted abstract
The Australian irrigation industry is a significant component of the nation’s food and fibre value chains, contributing one third of the nation’s agricultural production and half of its agricultural profit. Despite this the Australian water reform process, and the growing community interest in appropriate water use, has placed significant pressure on Australian irrigators to justify their access to water in the face of competition from urban, industrial and especially environmental needs. This pressure peaked during the unprecedented Australian drought conditions that commenced in the late 1990’s and prompted the Australian Government to form the National Water Commission in order to focus on sustainable water management. Irrigator engagement in the water reform process has been increasingly defensive and although sustainable water management was being pursued at a firm (or farm) level, as well as through industry funded initiatives and programs, the individual irrigator has generally been left with the responsibility for sustainable water management.

This research recognises a value chain as the physical chain of processes that sources inputs, transforms them into marketable goods and distributes them through to final consumers. The potential for the entire irrigation value chain to share in the responsibility to respond to water reform provides a background for the key research question of: how can value chain management principles assist Australian irrigated agriculture producers secure access to irrigation water? Literature regarding the water reform process, value chain management principles, value chain responses to environmental pressure, and corporate social responsibility is considered in order to investigate the potential for all members of irrigated value chains to not only ensure, but also share responsibility for, sustainable water management. This thesis considers that problem by addressing an identified gap between the water reform and value chain management literature.

The research design, based on a constructivist paradigm, involved participant observation in a single case study, which was supported and triangulated by in-depth semi-structured interviews with a range of water reform and irrigation industry opinion leaders. The analysis found that: (i) value chain management principles promote sustainable irrigation management practices; (ii) whilst value chain management promote sustainable irrigation management practices, they are not sufficient to secure sustainable irrigation management practices; and (iii) despite limitations, value chain management is the most likely business management strategy to secure sustainable irrigation management practices.

This study’s contribution has been to address the gap between water reform and value chain management literature and provides conclusions as to how value chain management principles can assist fuller engagement in the water reform debate. This informs possible future research in the area of sustainable management of all natural resources, and formation of appropriate industry and government policy.
Keyword Water reform

Document type: Thesis
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Created: Tue, 30 Oct 2012, 09:00:30 EST by John Mcveigh on behalf of University of Queensland Graduate School