Off-farm Efficiency Program

The Off-farm Efficiency Program is a $1.48 billion program designed to recover water for the environment through off-farm water efficiency projects.

Projects funded under the program will improve the efficiency of off-farm irrigation infrastructure and increase the volume of water available for irrigators. They will also help us to reach the Murray–Darling Basin Plan’s river health targets of returning 450 GL by June 2024 to enhance environmental outcomes.

Off-farm water projects are more effective in recovering water than on-farm water projects. This is due to their ability to:

  • improve infrastructure efficiency, protecting irrigators against a water constrained future
  • provide opportunities for environmental water recovery without taking water that is used for crops
  • take the pressure off irrigators to recover water through buybacks
  • achieve positive social and economic outcomes for communities.

The program is part of the Murray Darling Communities Investment Package. The package aims to put communities and jobs at the heart of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan. It will be funded through the Water for the Environment Special Account and includes:

  • $1.33 billion available for state-led projects to modernise irrigation infrastructure networks
  • $150 million available for Commonwealth-led direct grants for off-farm water savings projects that do not warrant Basin state involvement.

We have already started engaging with Basin states and irrigation networks to identify suitable projects. We are now working with Basin states on funding arrangements for state-led projects and we intend to open the Commonwealth-led direct grants component to eligible organisations in August 2021.

Stocktake of off-farm infrastructure concept proposals

In November 2020, the Murray–Darling Basin (MDB) Ministerial Council considered a list of off-farm infrastructure concept proposals that could address water losses, provide regional stimulus, and/or contribute to agricultural productivity. Proposals included in the stocktake that do not generate water savings are not eligible for funding through the Water for the Environment Special Account.  

The following list is provided with the consent of proponents.

Stocktake proposals

The department has not committed to fund any concept proposal from this list. We are currently working with Basin states to establish arrangements for the Off-farm Efficiency Program.

It is expected that Basin states will work with proponents to develop water recovery concepts into project proposals that can be considered for funding.

Read our full list.

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Stocktake list PDF  10 181 KB
Stocktake list DOCX ​​​​​ 10 93 KB

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On-farm water infrastructure

We are shifting our focus to off-farm water infrastructure to help recover water for the environment.

The Water Efficiency Program is now closed and we are no longer accepting any further applications. Any on-farm projects that are currently in progress under the former Water Efficiency program will continue to be assessed, and if approved, receive funding to complete the project.

$60 million is available for on-farm projects proposed by states that have strong community support and can demonstrate neutral or positive economic outcomes.

More details will be made available here in due course.

Approved Off-farm Projects

Program summary

Program summary (as of June 2021)

Total number of approved projects: 1

Total funding for projects: $177.5M

Total volume of water contracted to be recovered: 15.9 GL

Approved projects

Goulburn Murray Water (GMW) Water Efficiency Project

GMW is funded through WESA under agreement between the Australian Government and Victoria State Government. The project proposal was submitted to the Australian Government for funding consideration and announced on 4 March 2021 for $177.5 million with 15.9 GL/y Long Term Average Annual Yield (LTAAY) of water recovery. It complies with the agreed socio-economic criteria.

The GMW Efficiency Project is a fully developed project that will deliver modernisation and rationalisation works across the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District (GMID).

This project will save water while also improving service delivery by:

  • modernising ageing water infrastructure and
  • decommissioning old channels.

This project will offer an economic boost to Northern Victoria while also meeting Victoria's obligations under the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.

The project is expected to benefit approximately 1,000 customers by modernising or decommissioning more than 250 km of channels and upgrading or rationalising more than 1,000 outlets.

For more information see the Goulburn-Murray Water website.

Last reviewed: 24 June 2021
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