A NSW Government website

How to comply

Irrigated agriculture

Irrigated agriculture refers to the supply of water to land and crops by pipes, sprinklers, ditches, or streams. The water comes from river systems. Irrigated agriculture accounts for about 80 per cent of water take in NSW. Ensuring compliance in this area is a high priority for Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR).

In 2023, our compliance efforts will focus on monitoring pumps and bores that are used for irrigated agriculture, targeting four locations in NSW, Murray, Murrumbidgee, Hunter and North Coast. We are focussing on these regions based on our intelligence led regulatory priorities. We will check:

  • that water is pre-ordered before it is pumped (only applicable to regulated river systems)
  • that only lawful dams are used
  • that water is not taken without approval, licence or water allocation
  • that water take is measured lawfully, and appropriate records are made and kept (logbooks or meters)
  • that water is applied to the correct irrigation area(s) as nominated on the use approval, or combined approval.

How we detect non-compliance

Our team uses various datasets and satellite imagery that allow us to track rainfall and the amount of water that evaporates and transpires from soil, dams, lakes, rivers, river-side vegetation, dryland crops and irrigated crops. This means that NRAR can remotely monitor how much water is being used to irrigate crops on properties across NSW, and quickly and easily identify sites of potential non-compliance.

What this means for you

If you take water to use in irrigated agriculture, you must check your water management practices against the terms and conditions of your water access licence and approvals and ensure you comply.

How can I check my water access licence and approvals?

  1. Visit the NSW Water Register and carefully read the terms and conditions of your approval and water access licence
  2. Review your water management practices and make sure you comply with your licence(s) and approval(s).
  3. If you identify any issues, act quickly to change your water management practices or contact WaterNSW on 1300 662 007 or through their website to apply to change your licence or approval.

Why do I need to order water?

It’s important to pre-order water to ensure that there is enough water in the system for everyone and the environment. If you pump without pre-ordering you are taking water from your neighbours up and downstream and from the environment.

You can order water through the Water NSW website.

Do I need to comply with the new metering rules?

Some approval holders with access licences in the Hunter Regulated River Water Source were required to install accurate meters that meet the standards of the new metering rules by 1 December 2021. When we check compliance on your property, we will also confirm your metering compliance status.

If you have a water supply work you are no longer using, you can deem it inactive and be exempt from the new metering rules. You can do this by amending your approval on the WaterNSW website.

Further information about the metering rules can also be found on the WaterNSW website.

What happens if I don't comply?

If you do not comply with the NSW water laws, you face enforcement action. NRAR enforces the law to ensure fairness to those who do comply. The enforcement action taken will depend on the breach. For example, if you take water without a licence or above your allocation, then an order requiring payment of up to five times the volume of water may be imposed under the Water Management Act 2000. Our responses to non-compliance may also include:

  • providing information to help people comply with water laws
  • issuing stop work orders and directions to protect the water source
  • issuing cautions and fines
  • prosecuting offenders.

Our approach to enforcement and prosecution is detailed in our Regulatory Policy and Prosecution Guidelines.