Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency (COFFIE) Program

​​​​​​​Update: Planning continues for the proposed roll-out of the COFFIE program across the Murray-Darling Basin, however the program design may change depending on outcomes from an analysis of Efficiency Measures. In the meantime the COFFIE pilot program is underway in South Australia.

About the COFFIE program

The Australian Government is developing 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 in its current form 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. To ensure the program design will achieve these objectives, COFFIE and other proposed efficiency measures programs are currently the subject of a high-level independent analysis. Outcomes from the analysis, including any changes to COFFIE, are expected to be announced in early 2018.

The first phase of COFFIE’s development involves delivery of one or more pilots to test the program design before launch of the full program. The first of these is a $15 million pilot in South Australia (SA), which commenced in September 2016 and will run for 3 years.

The SA pilot is now underway

To see if you are eligible to participate, review the COFFIE program pilot in South Australia.

How is the COFFIE program likely to work?

The Australian Government aims to source delivery partners who will have a critical role in developing and managing projects. Delivery partners 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 in its current form is broader than previous on-farm programs, including:

  • proposals can 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
  • projects can return a minimum of 10 megalitres in water savings, except in the SA Pilot of COFFIE where projects delivering 2 megalitres or more are being accepted.

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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Key Themes: Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency (COFFIE) program consultation PDFPDF Icon251.5 MB
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More information

Call 1800 900 090

If you would like updates about COFFIE and other efficiency measures programs please email us with your contact details and type ‘subscribe’ in the subject field.

Information on the Australian Government’s strategy to recover water for the environment is provided in the 2014 Water Recovery Strategy.