The SA pilot of the Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency (COFFIE) program

​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 South Australian pilot of the COFFIE program, however many aspects of the MDBWI program design are based on lessons learned from the pilot. The Department expects to cease accepting new project applications for the COFFIE pilot on 5 October 2018.

The South Australian pilot of the Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency (COFFIE) program is open for project applications until 5 October 2018. Contact the delivery partner, the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board, on 08 8536 5619 to discuss project options and likely timing. The Board can work with irrigators to develop proposals, including ensuring they are practically and technically feasible, and suitable for the irrigator and the property. Once funding is approved, the delivery partner will work with irrigators to implement projects and manage their administration.

The process for developing and implementing a project under the SA pilot

Phase 1 – Developing a project proposal

Step 1: The South Australian Murray Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board works with an irrigator to develop a project proposal. Step 2: The NRM Board has the project proposal assessed by an Independent Approved Irrigation Professional to ensure the project is feasible. Step 3: The NRM Board submits the project proposal to us for assessment. Step 4: We either approve, request more information or reject the project proposal within ten business days. Step 4a: If more information is requested, an extension is granted and the delivery partner will have to resubmit an amended project proposal and return to Step 3. Step 5: If approved, we issue a signed Project Order to the NRM Board. 


Phase 2 – Implementing a project

Step 1: The NRM Board and irrigator sign a Works and Transfer Agreement and provide a copy to us. Step 2: The irrigator transfers the agreed water entitlements to the Commonwealth via the NRM Board. Step 3: The NRM Board informs the Department: • that all insurances are in place • that approvals have been obtained • of details of subcontractors carrying out the project services. Step 4: The project commences and construction begins. Step 5a: The NRM Board provides biannual progress reports to the Department. Step 5b: The Department conducts audits and work health and safety compliance checks of projects on a regular basis. Step 6: The Project must be completed within three years of the transfer of water entitlements. 


Am I eligible?

To be eligible for the pilot, irrigators need to:

  • demonstrate they are the registered owner of one or more eligible surface water entitlement/s in the South Australian Murray
  • be able to put forward a project that generates water savings of at least 2 megalitres.

Activities and items eligible for inclusion in a project

The project needs to include irrigation efficiency activities that make actual water savings of an equivalent volume (or larger) to the minimum water savings transferred to the Commonwealth. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • installing new or upgrading existing irrigation and water delivery infrastructure and associated technology / infrastructure
  • restructuring, reconfiguring or closing water delivery systems
  • improving irrigated area layout or design, including levelling and embankments, where it improves on-farm irrigation efficiency
  • rationalisation of individual irrigators within an irrigation infrastructure scheme, or
  • other activities improving the water efficiency of a farm or irrigation district or water supply, such as increasing the soil’s moisture holding capacity.

A project may also include other activities improving farm efficiency, providing the cost of these does not exceed the limit of the project fee. For example:

  • energy efficiency components of infrastructure
  • equipment which improves farm productivity such as packing/pump sheds, fences or harvesting equipment
  • activities improving farm efficiency, management or income
  • connection to a water metering system compliant with the National Framework for Non-urban Water Metering (including interim standards), and/or
  • developing a farm irrigation design.

Eligible activities do not include:

  • conversion to dryland agriculture or exiting agriculture where it is not part of making irrigation or a supply system more efficient
  • infrastructure changes that lead to an increase in water use beyond the irrigator’s existing entitlements, or
  • any other activities which do not meet the objectives of the program.

What funding is available for projects?

The funding available for each project is linked to the volume of water access entitlements to be exchanged. Funding will be up to 1.75 times the value of the total volume of water entitlements to be exchanged at the contemporary market price as determined by the department. Contact the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board for more information regarding pricing for your proposal.

The current water value for eligible entitlements in the SA pilot of COFFIE is as follows:

StateWater Resource Plan AreaEntitlement typeValue
(per ML)
Maximum funding for
infrastructure (per ML),
excluding delivery partner costs
South AustraliaSouth Australian Murray3a$3,530$5,868.62

This water price will be updated when there is a significant change in water market values.

Where can I find out more and how do I apply?

Contact the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board via Natural Resources SA Murray-Darling Basin on 08 8536 5619 for more information and their help in applying. They will work with you to develop a project proposal and then submit it on your behalf.

You can also download the program’s Guide for Participants for detailed information about eligibility for the SA pilot and what’s involved in developing and implementing projects.


DocumentPagesFile size
Guide for Participants: Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency (COFFIE) Program Pilot South Australia PDF 27466 KB
Guide for Participants: Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency (COFFIE) Program Pilot South Australia DOCX 272.0 MB

If you have difficulty accessing these files, visit web accessibility for assistance.

Media release: New on-farm irrigation infrastructure pilot program kicks off in SA