Queensland healthy headwater water use efficiency project

The Healthy HeadWaters Water Use Efficiency project is a Queensland state priority project agreed to by the Australian and Queensland governments at the July 2008 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting. The project is funded by the Australian Government as part of the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program.

The project is designed to assist irrigation farmers in the Queensland Murray-Darling Basin by investing in efficient irrigation systems and technologies that reduce water loss, deliver long-term social and economic benefits, and return a share of water savings to the Basin's rivers, wetlands and floodplains.

The Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) is responsible for implementing the project.
The Australian Government has committed up to $154.9 million for the Healthy HeadWaters Water Use Efficiency Project.


Irrigators holding tradeable surface water allocations in Queensland Murray-Darling Basin catchments may be eligible to apply for funding to improve the efficiency of their on-farm irrigation infrastructure. DNRM will list the eligible Queensland Murray-Darling Basin catchments on their website prior to each Round of funding.

In return for the Australian Government’s investment in the projects, applicants are required to transfer at least half of the project water savings to the Australian Government for environmental priorities. Water savings nominated by applicants for permanent transfer must be an unencumbered, tradeable surface water allocation.

Application timing

DNRM conducts funding rounds through an open tender process, entailing a monthly application and assessment periods.  The Project is due for completion in December 2016.

See Water use efficiency project—DNRM for details, including an information guide, application form and application guidelines.

Irrigation infrastructure upgrades eligible for funding

The type of work proposed is up to the landholder, depending on what suits their property and situation. Potential work could include improvements to:

  • irrigation distribution systems (e.g. converting open channels to pipes)
  • water storages or in-field irrigation systems (e.g. converting from flood irrigation to centre pivot/lateral move).

Assessment of proposals

DNRM will receive and assess applications, after which DNRM will submit your application, along with other applications, to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources for further consideration.

Our department will review each application to ensure it provides social, economic and environmental benefit as well as acceptable value for money. We will also consider the social and economic benefits of the package of works as a whole at a regional level, as well as its capacity for delivering Australian Government priorities for water management within the Murray-Darling Basin.

Involvement with the Australian Government

If your application is successful, the Australian Government will undertake a due diligence assessment of the water entitlement offered by you for transfer, to verify the details on your application are correct and that there are no undisclosed factors that may impact the transfer.

Then you will be required to enter into and complete a 'water transfer deed' with the Australian Government to permanently transfer your nominated water entitlement.

You will also need to enter into a separate 'works agreement' with DNRM to document the work to be completed. The payment of funds that will be made to you through the Queensland State Government.