Water infrastructure investment

We invest in water saving infrastructure projects to return water to the environment. Infrastructure projects we invest in deliver:

  • value-for-money
  • more profitable farms, better able to deal with a variable climate
  • more sustainable agricultural industries
  • stronger regional communities.

What is water infrastructure?

Water infrastructure gets the water from rivers and dams to users, including farmers. On-farm infrastructure is how farmers get the water to their plants and animals.

Why invest in infrastructure?

Helping farmers

Our programs help farmers use their water more efficiently and effectively, getting water to the roots of the plants or to their animals when and how they need it.

The On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program has returned 149GL every year on average over the long-term to the environment. It has helped farmers to:

  • put in automated systems and water sensors that tell them when crops need water
  • change farm layout, so water flows over the land in a way that is better for the crops
  • move to more efficient irrigation, like underground drip systems and overhead sprays.

Fast facts on the On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program

  • 149 gigalitres (long-term average annual yield) of water savings returned to the environment— about 59,600 Olympic-sized pools
  • over 89GL of water savings retained by farmers
  • $498.9 million (GST exclusive) invested over 5 funding rounds since 2009
  • over 1,500 projects delivered in 9 river catchments across the Southern-connected Basin
  • 13 delivery partners getting funds to farmers

Getting water to farms

Companies that deliver water to farms through an irrigation network are generally called irrigation infrastructure operators. One program that has invested in these companies is the Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program in New South Wales. The program is returning 142GL every year on average over the long-term to the environment. It has funded activities like:

  • making leaky channels more water tight by lining the channel with clay or products like HDPE
  • replacing open channels with piped systems
  • introducing new technology, such as regulators and telemetry
  • upgrading old meters and structures to new ones that are more accurate.

Fast facts on the Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program in New South Wales

  • over $852 million contracted across 3 funding rounds
  • over 142 gigalitres (long-term average annual yield) of water savings returned to the environment—about 28 per cent of Sydney Harbour
  • 14 projects delivered by 9 irrigation infrastructure operators
  • 626 kilometres of new/refurbished water delivery channels—about the distance between Canberra and Melbourne
  • 1,005 kilometres of stock and domestic pipeline laid—longer than the distance between Sydney and Melbourne
  • 8,518 outlets and structures (flumes, meters, telemetry, offtakes , automation etc) installed or upgraded
  • 281 farms received on-farm works
  • 7 new pump stations installed
  • 227 kilometres of scheme channels decommissioned

These two programs are just some of the many programs across the Murray-Darling Basin. Read more about other programs returning water to the environment.

What is being achieved?

Investing in water infrastructure has many benefits for farmers and local communities.

The water recovered is returned to the environment under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. Read about the environmental benefits of that water.

Benefits for farmers

Farmers experience many benefits like improved volume, quality and choice of crops.

Even though farmers give up some water to the environment, the vast majority maintain or even increase their production. They also benefit from better lifestyles, by not having to get up at all hours to turn on manual watering systems.

More productive farms contribute to a better future for rural communities.


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Turnell – Griffith, NSW

Traditional open furrow watering system for citrus replaced with a new high-tech drip system. Water use cut by 60 per cent, system fully-automated. It can be operated from a mobile phone.

Value $159,864.10

Plunkett – Mooroopna, Victoria

Overhead sprinkler system for apples that mimics a natural dew, decreasing signs of sunburn.

Value: $1,126,985.00

Lehmann – Renmark, South Australia

2013 installation of automated drip irrigation of 21.5ha for vineyard, new pumps, filtration and fertigation equipment and a soil-moisture monitoring system to replace old low-level sprinklers.

Value: $146,090.00

Gardiner – Coleambally, New South Wales

Installation of high-flow beds with manual stops, allowing for other crops additional to rice.

Value: $212,130.60


Read more about the benefits of on-farm projects from some of our partners that delivered funding to farmers:

Irrigation infrastructure operators

Irrigation infrastructure operators are also experiencing significant benefits from participating in our programs. Read final reports from these projects.

Murray Irrigation Limited has also released information about the benefits of its projects:

Creating jobs in rural and regional Australia

New infrastructure creates jobs, particularly during construction.

Project materials are often sourced from local businesses, like pumps and concrete. Also, workers spend their wages in local communities providing benefits for businesses not directly involved in the project.

A study of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area found that there would be 130 extra full time jobs at the end of construction, with between 75 and 112 extra full time jobs after that. It also found that during construction the local economy grew by an estimated $178 million.

Water recovered so far

As at the 31 March 2019, about a third of the water recovered by the Australian Government has come from infrastructure.

Read the detail on getting water for environment in the Murray–-Darling Basin.

Last reviewed: 12 October 2020
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