Update: planning continues for the proposed roll-out of the COFFIE program across the Murrary-Darling Basin in late 2017. In the meantime the COFFIE pilot program is underway in South Australia.
About the COFFIE program
The Australian Government is establishing a new program that provides funding to help irrigators in the Murray–Darling Basin modernise their on-farm irrigation systems, in exchange for water savings to the environment.
The Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency (COFFIE) program provides funding for irrigation infrastructure upgrades and other on-farm water efficiency activities. In return, irrigators transfer the water savings they are confident of achieving from the project to the Commonwealth. Additional water savings are retained by the irrigator. Projects funded through the COFFIE program allow water to be recovered to improve river health while maintaining or improving farm productivity.
Participation in COFFIE is voluntary; it does not involve water purchasing or target particular communities. The program is designed to deliver economic, social and environmental benefits for Basin communities, achieving neutral or positive socio-economic outcomes.
COFFIE will be rolled out across the Basin to give as many irrigators as possible access to funding – while not competing with existing on-farm programs until they finish in 2019. After this, COFFIE will be the only Commonwealth managed on-farm program in operation until 2024.
The first phase of COFFIE’s development involves delivery of pilots to test the program design before launch of the full program in late 2017, with up to $35m available for projects. The first of these will be a $15m pilot in South Australia.
The SA pilot is now underway
To see if you are eligible to participate, review the COFFIE program pilot in South Australia.
How will the COFFIE program work?
The Australian Government will source delivery partners who will have a critical role in developing and managing projects. They will talk with irrigators about the options available under the program and help them develop project proposals. This includes ensuring that proposals are practically and technically feasible, and suitable for the irrigator and the property. Once funding is approved, delivery partners will work with irrigators to implement their projects and manage their administration.
There is $1.575 billion of funding available for COFFIE and other efficiency measures programs.
How is COFFIE different to previous on-farm irrigation programs?
The COFFIE program will be broader than previous on-farm programs, including:
- Proposals will be accepted at any time until 2024 – there will not be funding rounds.
- Proposals do not need to compete against each other, they simply need to meet the eligibility criteria.
- Water values will be publicly available and will reflect contemporary water market prices.
- Project funding will be 1.75 times the advertised water value.
- Smaller projects will be accepted – projects will need to make a minimum of 10ML (smaller projects may be accepted under the pilots).
Interaction with current on-farm irrigation programs
The Australian Government currently funds on-farm irrigation infrastructure improvements through a number of programs established to 'bridge the gap' to sustainable diversion limits in the Basin Plan, including the On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program (OFIEP), which is due to wrap up by 2019.
COFFIE is the first in the next iteration of programs to support irrigation improvements and other water recovery activities. It will be implemented in a way that complements existing programs already recovering water to ‘bridge the gap’ to the sustainable diversion limit set by the Basin Plan. The COFFIE pilot in SA and early stages of the full program will be undertaken in areas or in ways not covered by existing programs—for example, in areas not serviced by existing programs or where the SDL has been met or by enabling participation from irrigators not eligible under current programs.
Public consultation on design of the COFFIE pilot program
In late 2015 the department sought comments from interested organisations and individuals about the COFFIE pilot program design.
The paper Key Themes: Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency (COFFIE) program consultation was published in April 2016 to summarise and respond to the issues raised. The COFFIE pilot program design was modified to reflect outcomes from this process.
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Information on the Australian Government’s strategy to recover water for the environment is provided in the 2014 Water Recovery Strategy.