Program History

The up to $626 million On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program (the Programme) was first launched by the Australian Government in 2009 under the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program (SRWUIP), with the aim of assisting 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.

The programme aims to support the implementation of on-farm projects to improve the efficiency and productivity of on-farm water use and management. Water savings generated by these projects are shared between proponents and the environment with at least 50 per cent of the water savings transferred to the Australian Government.

Waterfind's On-Farm Projects

Waterfinds involvement commenced in 2013 when it applied to participate as a delivery partner in Round 3 of the programme. Waterfind has observed firsthand the benefits of the programme and its promotion for the utilisation of best practice irrigation methods in reduction of water use and the increased production on irrigated land.

Project works have included:

  • laser grading reducing the instances of pooling and uneven water application
  • fast flow delivery and drainage systems to apply and drain water quickly reducing deep infiltration and increasing recapture for use in future irrigations
  • irrigation monitoring sensors allowing better management of water application and crop water demand
  • drainage water recycling systems allowing the recapture and reuse of irrigation water reducing the requirement for new water to be brought on farm
  • enclosed pipes and riser systems reducing farm evaporation and seepage through previous open channels
  • Installation of lateral and centre pivot spray irrigator systems
  • Upgrade of drip irrigation
  • Conversion of irrigation system types (e.g. flood to spray, flood to drip)


On 10 December 2012 the Minister announced $100 million of in-principle funding for water infrastructure projects under Round 3 of the Programme.


Waterfind was successful as a Round 3 Delivery Partner and signed its first funding agreement (Agreement) on 16 August 2013 with the Australian Government for $13.5 million. Successful sub-projects aimed to improve irrigation management of rural enterprises by promoting positive environmental project outcomes, with the overall aim to increase environmental sustainability, reduce the reliance on the Basin’s water resources and promote food and fibre production.

All sub-projects under this agreement have now been completed. Waterfinds proponents reported positively in relation to the outcomes and performance of the systems post completion. Reports included comments on the increased crop yields and productivity in the initial irrigation after completion and the greater flexibility in their property layouts allows them to increase diversity changing crop types to reflect commodity prices in the market

It has been clear that the water efficiency outcomes have been met with proponents recording less over watering and the benefits of the ability to recapture water through recycle systems putting less demand on the requirement to source additional water for irrigation. Additional outcomes have included increased long term business sustainability, reduced labour and the ability expand their operation in many cases.


On 1 April 2014 the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment announced $158 million of in-principle funding for projects under Round 4 of the Programme. Again Waterfind was successful in becoming a Delivery Partner and granted over $16 million in an Agreement signed in December 2014.


Initially we saw delays in project commencement due to wetter than average weather, however this round is well under way and all projects are likely be completed by mid 2017. Initial feedback on the impact of changes to farming systems have included increase simplicity in farm management, improvement in operational efficiency, reduced labour requirement and increased production.


On 5 August 2015, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment announced $263.5 million of in-principle funding for Round 5 of the On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program. This round supports projects located in the Southern Basin New South Wales zone of the Murray-Darling Basin. All projects must be completed by 28 February 2019.


Waterfind extended its interest in participation in the programme successfully working to fund $32 million in its first funding agreement for this round signed 15 March 2016. In addition to this Waterfind has worked with proponents under a second call of funding under Round 5 to submit additional applications for assessment and inclusion.

Projects have commenced and progress with some delay due to the extended wet winter of 2016. Waterfind has been monitoring sub-project progress and has been impressed with the impact the changes the funding has enabled on the land and in the communities.


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