The first pilot for the new Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency program (COFFIE) has begun in South Australia to support upgrades to irrigation infrastructure.
Assistant Secretary in the Water Division of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Amy Fox, said the COFFIE program was the first in the next generation of Australian Government programs to support improvements in irrigation infrastructure, and would complement existing infrastructure programs currently underway across the Murray–Darling Basin.
“The department has been working with a range of stakeholders to ensure that the COFFIE program meets the needs of industry and communities throughout the Basin, including undertaking public consultation last year on the proposed program design,” Ms Fox said.
“The pilot program in South Australia will now help test and refine the program design, to make sure economic, social and environmental benefits are maximised.
“The Australian Government is committed to prioritising investment in infrastructure over purchasing water to implement the Murray–Darling Basin Plan in a way that supports strong agricultural industries and local communities, as well as a healthy river system.
Ms Fox said programs like COFFIE are an important part of this commitment.
“Irrigators who have taken part in these types of programs report genuine benefits at the farmgate—like the flexibility to grow higher-value crops; increased yields; the ability to produce a larger crop from lower water allocations; and some irrigators receiving allocations in dry years when they otherwise wouldn’t,” Ms Fox said.
“Modern and efficient water infrastructure means that water that would otherwise be lost through seepage or evaporation can be put to productive use.
“The minimum water savings from COFFIE projects will be returned to the environment, while additional water savings will be retained by the irrigator.
“These infrastructure improvements will help ensure that farm businesses across the Basin are resilient, productive and sustainable for many generations to come.”