A NSW Government website

How we ensure compliance

How we use technology

NRAR uses a rapidly expanding suite of technology to monitor and assess compliance with water laws across NSW.

We proactively monitor and regulate water across 800,000 square kilometres, 38,000 water access licences, 33,000 licensed works for irrigation from a total of 156,000 licensed works and 10,000 constructed water bodies greater than one hectare in size.

Technology increases the accuracy and efficiency of our work, which means the chance of non-compliance being detected has never been greater.

Hear from our tech specialists about our use of drones, satellites and autonomous boats.

Satellite imagery

We use publicly available satellite imagery to monitor water take and usage across NSW.  This enables remote screening across large areas to capture a near complete picture of water use across the state and helps to identify any anomalies.

This technology was particularly useful during the COVID-19 lockdowns, allowing us to quickly adapt to ensure we could continue to monitor, assess and investigate water usage.

We use Sentinel and Landsat, which provide images that cover the globe every 5 to 16 days and are excellent for analysing changes in water use all the way back to the 1980s.

Our teams also use Planet satellite imagery, which covers the whole of NSW every day and provides higher resolution images than Sentinel or Landsat.

In April 2022, satellite technology was used to measure the rise and fall of water in a dam leading to the prosecution of a Brewarrina farmer who was found to have breached the conditions of their water licence.

Learn more about how NRAR uses satellite imagery to monitor water take in NSW.


With their bird’s eye view, drones give us a better overall understanding of a site when on an inspection. They provide real-time high-resolution images on the spot.  

Unlike satellite images, which are always top down, drone footage can also show side views.

Drones can be flown along a river to assess illegal works on waterfront land and can be used to find pumps, bores and pipes in hard-to-access locations.

Learn more about how we use drones and satellite imagery to monitor water use and compliance with our water laws across NSW.

Acoustic profiler boat

The acoustic profiler boat is one of the most recent additions to our technology suite. This remotely piloted boat uses sound waves to measure the size and shape of a dam to determine its storage volume.

The boat takes thousands of depth readings that tell us the exact size and shape of a dam to accurately calculate the volume of water.

This state-of-the-art survey equipment is the most accurate way to measure dam volumes and it comes with enough batteries to survey storages of any size. It is capable of accurately measuring flow in open channels, as found on cotton farms and other large irrigation operations.

Other technology

Aerial photography

High resolution aerial photography can show us the finest details at any site of interest. With an on-ground pixel size of less than 10cm, these images are captured several times per year, extending back to 2012.

NRAR uses these images to map in detail and identify:

- dams likely to be larger than harvestable rights allow
- properties likely to be using bores, approved for stock and domestic use only, in commercial activities
- properties with areas under intensive horticulture that may be larger than allowed under water entitlement volumes.

Fish finder

Fish finders are used by our officers to quickly and easily measure dam depths to calculate dam volumes. They can be used in conjunction with LiDAR data and terrain models to gauge whether dams are of an approved size.

Flow meters

We use highly accurate ultrasonic flow meters that can measure water flow in closed pipes without having to install a meter.

Digital Elevation Models

Digital Elevation Models are used for identifying unlawful waterfront works and changes in the size of approved works.  These detailed models of the ground surface are made using airborne laser survey technology and aerial photographs.

High resolution Digital Elevation Models help identify the size, shape and volume of constructed features as well as helping identify waterfront land and associated river channels, benches, floodplains and infrequently flooded terraces.

Constructed features such as dams, channels, levees and roads are also clearly represented by these terrain models, allowing accurate and detailed assessment and mapping of these types of constructed water management works.

Surveillance cameras

We use motion-activated surveillance cameras when unlawful water take is suspected at a certain location.