​Media Release

Have your say on the next generation of on-farm irrigation efficiency programmes

3 November 2015

The Australian Government is calling on irrigators, industry and potential delivery agencies to have their say on the design of a new on-farm irrigation efficiency programme. 

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency (COFFIE) programme was the first in the next generation of Australian Government programmes that will support on-farm water use efficiency across the Basin. 

"This program has the potential to drive the development of the innovative, productive farms of the future," Minister Joyce said. 

"Therefore this is an important opportunity for irrigators, industry, potential delivery agencies—and others with an interest in the programme—to help shape the design of this important programme to ensure it best meets their needs. 

"This programme will run until 2024, and will provide funding to help irrigators modernise their on-farm irrigation infrastructure—increasing efficiency and flexibility in water use on-farm, and delivering environmental benefits. 

"The minimum water savings from projects will be returned to the environment, while additional water savings will be retained by the irrigator. 

"These types of programmes are a key element in our delivery of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, and effectively support the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental outcomes. 

"This is why we have made $1.575 billion in funding available for programmes to upgrade irrigation infrastructure across the Basin." 

Minister Joyce said participants in other similar programmes—such as the current On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Programme (OFIEP) in NSW—have found that benefits of participating go beyond water use savings. 

"For example, irrigators have found the improvements they've been able to implement under the programme have given them greater flexibility of crop choice, increased yield from crops and the ability to produce a larger crop from lower water allocations," Minister Joyce said. 

"We want as many irrigators as possible to be able to unlock similar benefits—so this new programme will be rolled out across the Basin, and we expect that it will also accept smaller projects with a minimum of 10 megalitres of water savings. 

"We are also proposing that any application that meets the criteria can be accepted and approved any time—rather than running competitive funding rounds. 

"The government is committed to delivering the Basin Plan on time and in full, and is investing an average of around $2.5 million dollars every day in infrastructure upgrades to support sustainable agricultural production, healthy rivers, and strong communities across the Basin." 

Amendments made to the Water Act 2007 in February 2013 require an additional 450 gigalitres in water savings (on top of the 2750 gigalitre target) to be made—provided that they are neutral or improved social and economic outcomes, and constraints in delivery for the additional water savings can be overcome.  The amendments also included a legislated commitment of $1.8 billion to achieve the additional water savings. The next generation of on-farm irrigation efficiency programmes being developed is funded from this commitment. 

To find out more and have your say on the design of the COFFIE programme, visit www.environment.gov.au/water/rural-water/coffie/consultation, or contact the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on 1800 218 478 or email efficiency.meaures@agriculture.gov.au.