Update: The Australian Government has launched a new Basin-wide initiative to recover water for the environment – the Murray-Darling Basin Water Infrastructure (MDBWI) program. This program will supersede the COFFIE program, which has been running as a pilot program in South Australia. Many aspects of the MDBWI program design are based on lessons learned from the COFFIE SA pilot program.
About the COFFIE program pilot
In 2016 the Australian Government launched the pilot of an efficiency measures program to help irrigators in the South Australian 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) South Australian pilot program currently 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 pilot program allow water to be recovered to improve river health while maintaining or improving farm productivity. Participation in the pilot program is voluntary; it does not involve water purchasing or target particular communities. The program is designed to deliver economic, social and environmental benefits for SA Basin communities.
The South Australian pilot of COFFIE commenced in September 2016 and is being delivered by the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board. Over 50 on-farm projects in the South Australia Murray region are being managed or have been completed. The pilot has been crucial in developing and testing the design of the recently launched efficiency measures program, the Murray-Darling Basin Water Infrastructure program. It is expected the pilot program will be closed to new applications on 5 October 2018.
Public consultation on design of the COFFIE program pilot
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 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.