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How to comply

Floodplain harvesting

Floodplain harvesting is the practice of capturing water that flows across the floodplains, generally during or after periods of heavy rain.

The Department of Planning and Environment – Water has developed the NSW floodplain harvesting policy which sets out the process for bringing floodplain harvesting into the existing water licensing framework.

The NSW Government’s licensing and measurement reform to control floodplain harvesting within legal limits became law in Water Sharing Plans for the Border Rivers and Gwydir Valleys from 1 August 2022.

By 1 September, floodplain harvesting licence holders in the Border Rivers and Gwydir valleys will have their water accounts credited and the floodplain harvesting framework will be fully operational.

Licences for the Macquarie, Barwon-Darling and Namoi valleys will be determined and will come into effect in late 2022 and early 2023.

How do water users comply with the floodplain harvesting rules?

Floodplain harvesting licences will afford water users the right to capture and store water as it flows across the floodplain but, they will also come with significant obligations.

Water users with licences to floodplain harvest will be required to measure and report their water take in accordance with licence conditions. Typically, this will require the installation and certification of metering equipment in line with the floodplain harvesting measurement framework.

All water taken in NSW must be done in accordance with water licence and approval conditions or with an exemption, or basic landholder right. Water users without appropriate licences and approvals to floodplain harvest can’t capture and store water from the floodplains.

What is NRAR’s compliance approach?

Until floodplain harvesting licences are issued, it is our position that all water taken in NSW must be done in accordance with the conditions of an access licence, works/use approval, exemption, or basic landholder right.

Water users who are capturing water from the floodplains without a licence may be subject to enforcement action by NRAR.

Unlawful floodplain harvesting will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. We will consider:

  • the water take – we will look at the volume of the water taken and whether the water user has a water licence/approval that allows water to be taken.
  • licence applications – we will also consider whether the water user has applied to the department for a floodplain harvesting licence and associated approvals. Visit the department's website for more information about applying for a floodplain harvesting licence.
  • the flood work or water supply work - the legal status of the flood work water supply work approval that was used to capture and store the water.

What technology is used to monitor compliance?

NRAR uses satellites and smart data to determine how much water is taken into and out of on-farm water storages.

This technology allows us to monitor changes in the volume of water in on-farm storages on a five-day cycle, and if needed, day-by-day.

After a major rain event we’re able to tell whether water has been diverted from the floodplain and stored in an on-farm dam or surge area, and if so, how much.

We’ll compare this data to the floodplain harvesting entitlement and any other entitlements to determine if water has been taken in accordance with any relevant licences and approvals.

How we use technology to monitor floodplain harvesting

Satellites allow us to monitor changes in the volume of water in water storage systems day-by-day.

What action will NRAR take when someone breaks the rules?

We respond in a range of ways to non-compliance depending on the potential harm caused to the environment or other water users, the offender’s culpability and compliance history as well as their attitude to the non-compliance.

Compliance responses include for example, in increasing severity: guidance and education material, advisory letters, warnings, corrective actions, statutory directions, stop work order licence suspension/cancellation and prosecution.

We are a firm but fair regulator and will consider each case on its merits. When licences are issued we will also work with water users and the wider community to help them understand and follow these rules.

In particular, we will encourage water users to be proactive in measuring their take and sticking to their limits.

Frequently asked questions

Is floodplain harvesting legal in NSW?

The licensing framework for floodplain harvesting will come into effect in August-September 2022 in the NSW Border Rivers and Gwydir valleys and will be rolled out progressively across the Macquarie, Barwon Darling and Namoi valleys.

All water taken in NSW must be done in accordance with the conditions of an access licence, works/use approval, exemption, or basic landholder right.

Water users who are capturing water from the floodplains without a licence will be subject to enforcement action by NRAR.

How can I find out more about floodplain harvesting? 

For more information about floodplain harvesting visit the department’s website.