Abstract Most government policies and community perception of the irrigation sector promotes the conversion from gravity-fed to pressurised irrigation methods as a way of reducing water consumption by the irrigation sector. However, optimising for one aspect of a system can have unintended resource and environmental consequences e.g. an increase in energy consumption patterns of irrigated crops. Two Australian irrigation areas were studied: a surface-water supplied region in New South Wales; and a groundwater dependent region in South Australia. The water and energy budgets for crop production from land preparation to harvest were quantified on several farms. Converting from flood to pressurised systems resulted in a reduction in water application of between 10% and 66%. However, in the surface-water supplied region, it also resulted in energy consumption being increased by up to 163%. In the groundwater dependent region, energy consumption was reduced by 12% to 44%. There is potential to reduce energy consumption due to increased water use efficiency, resulting in less water being pumped due to efficiency gains. Therefore, to optimise energy and water use, it is recommended that pressurised irrigation systems be used in areas requiring pressurised extraction of groundwater, while efficient gravity based irrigation methods, coupled with good management practices, be promoted in surface-water supplied areas.