Is floodplain harvesting legal in NSW?
The licensing framework for floodplain harvesting came into effect in August 2022 in the NSW Border Rivers and Gwydir valleys and in March/April 2023 for the Macquarie and Barwon-Darling valleys.
All water taken in NSW under the Water Management Act 2000 must be done so in accordance with the terms and conditions of a relevant licence, 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.
How do water users comply with 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 conditions on their linked water supply works approval. 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 under 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 metering equipment do I need to install?
Primary metering equipment: Water users have 12 months from the date the licensing framework commences in their valley to install primary metering equipment. Primary metering equipment measures and transmits data in near real-time on the volume of water in a storage or the quantity of water taken from the floodplain.
Secondary metering equipment: If water users intend to floodplain harvest in the first 12 months after commencement of the licensing framework for their river valley, they can install primary metering equipment, or at a minimum, a secondary metering device, such as a gauge board or an approved automated measurement device. If secondary metering equipment is not installed, licenced landholders must not take water from the floodplain during this interim period. Once the compliance deadline has passed, primary metering equipment must be installed before floodplain harvesting can occur.
Secondary metering equipment can only be used in these valleys if the primary metering equipment is not operating properly. Water users will also need to notify WaterNSW.
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.
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 compliance.
Compliance responses include for example, in increasing severity: guidance and education material, advisory letters, warnings, penalty notices, statutory directions, stop work orders, 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. We will encourage water users to be proactive in measuring their take and sticking to their limits.
How can I find out more about floodplain harvesting?
For more information about floodplain harvesting visit the Department’s website .