Water programs across the Murray–Darling Basin

​​​​​The Australian Government is working to improve the efficiency and productivity of irrigation water use and management through a number of funding programs.

Current programs and projects

Water for Fodder program

The Water for Fodder program is a key measure of the Government’s Drought Response, Resilience and Preparedness Plan. It makes 100 GL of water available for primary producers, including dairy farmers, in the southern connected Murray–Darling Basin at a discounted rate. The water must be used to grow fodder and pasture.

Water Efficiency Program

 The Water Efficiency Program is now closed. It was intended to fund urban, industrial, off-farm, on-farm and metering infrastructure projects across the Murray–Darling Basin.  Water savings from approved projects contributed to ‘bridge the gap’ to the sustainable diversion limits and the 450 GL of efficiency measures required under the Basin Plan with neutral or positive social and economic impacts.

See Off-Farm Efficiency Program for details of the new water recovery arrangements.​

Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure

The Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program (SRWUIP) is a national program investing in rural water use, management and efficiency, including improved water knowledge and market reform, and water purchase for the environment. It is the key mechanism to ‘bridge the gap’ to the sustainable diversion limits (SDLs) under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program

The ​On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program (OFIEP) assists irrigators within the southern connected system of the Murray–Darling Basin to modernise their on-farm irrigation infrastructure while returning water savings to the environment. Round 5 of the OFIEP closed on 19 March 2015.

Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency Program

The department will deliver a new program, Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency (COFFIE) Program, to replace all the Bridging the Gap programs Basin-wide from 2019. Through the COFFIE Program, we will fund infrastructure to make water delivery systems for irrigation even more efficient so that additional water can be recovered for the environment.

Private Irrigation Infrastructure Program for New South Wales

The Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program (PIIOP) in New South Wales (NSW) aims to improve the efficiency and productivity of water use and management of private irrigation networks to deliver water savings for the environment. Round 3 of the PIIOP-NSW closed on 12 May 2015.

Private Irrigation Infrastructure Program for South Australia

The Private Irrigation Infrastructure Program (PIIP) fo​r South Australia (SA) funds irrigation infrastructure efficiency improvements for Murray–Darling Basin operators in South Australia, with a share of the water savings achieved from those projects to be used for environmental water purposes. Over two rounds of funding, 13 PIIP-SA projects valued at $14.4 million have generated more than 3.9 GL in overall water savings.

Completed programs and projects

Environmental Works and Measures Feasibility Program

This program developed and tested the feasibility of a suite of Environmental Works and Measures projects in the Murray-Darling Basin. In broad terms, an Environmental Works and Measures (EWM) project aims to achieve similar or better environmental outcomes using less water than previously estimated in planning processes such as the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Types of projects investigated included the installation of regulators and ancillary infrastructure to enable broader and more natural floodplain inundation, and the removal of physical constraints to facilitate the delivery of environmental flow. See Environmental Works and Measures Feasibility Program

Irrigation Hotspots Assessment Program

The Hotspots Assessment Program used a consistent and science-based approach to identify the nature, location and amount of water losses (known as ‘hotspots’) in existing channel and piped irrigation delivery systems across Australia. The program aimed to inform irrigation water providers of the nature, location and amount of water lost in their irrigation water delivery system, thereby identifying potential water savings. The program funded 9 irrigation water providers to identify their sources of water loss. See Irrigation Hotspots Assessment Program

Irrigation Modernisation Planning Assistance

Irrigation Modernisation Planning Assistance helped irrigation water providers to develop modernisation plans for their districts and assess options to adapt to a future with less water. See Irrigation Modernisation Planning Assistance

National Hydrological Modelling Platform

In November 2008, COAG agreed to the development of a National Water Knowledge and Research Strategy to establish 8 priority research themes, ensure coordinated research effort, and ensure the best returns from investment. The outcome of that process was the National Water Knowledge and Research Platform, which was adopted by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments.

The National Hydrological Modelling Platform, one of the 8 themes, was intended to ensure that future water planning and management was informed by the use of best practice modelling. A nationally consistent modelling capability was developed through eWater Ltd. This hydrologic modelling capability will require continued development to meet new and emerging needs.

Small Block Irrigators Exit grants

In 2008, the Australian Government announced a $57.1 million Small Block Irrigators Exit Grant Package designed to assist small block irrigators, particularly horticultural producers, in the Murray-Darling Basin. Through this program, eligible small block irrigators in the Murray-Darling Basin affected by drought and climate change could get help to leave irrigation through the package while remaining on their farms. The program closed on 30 June 2009.

See also:

Strengthening Basin Communities

The Australian Government committed $200 million from the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program to establish this program, which included a planning component and water saving initiatives.
See Strengthening Basin Communities Program

Water for Rivers

The Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program provided more than $6 million to Water for Rivers for infrastructure that helps deliver additional environmental flows for the Snowy River.

Regional water programs

Last reviewed: 2 March 2021
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