A NSW Government website

How to comply

Irrigated agriculture

Irrigated agriculture is the manual application of water to soil. It ensures an adequate water supply for plants and food crops. Pipes, ditches, or streams transfer water from surface runoff, groundwater sources, and river systems to a required location.

Irrigated agriculture accounts for about 80 per cent of water take in NSW.

Ensuring compliance in this area is a priority for NRAR.

In 2024, our focus is to ensure that water used for irrigation is taken, stored, and used in line with lawful entitlement, access approvals and regulations. We will work to ensure that any breaches are brought into compliance or remove them from the landscape. This will support fair water sharing amongst users. It will also promote sustainable water sources and provide environmental benefits.

We will:

  • assist water users to become compliant, where possible
  • remove illegal dams from the landscape
  • return illegally captured water to the water sources
  • reduce the volume of oversized ‘Harvestable Rights’ dams to their allowable size

How we detect non-compliance

We analyse water data including rainfall, storage levels and river flows. We compare this data to land use mapping created from satellite imagery. This allows us to remotely monitor how much water is being used for irrigation. It helps us to quickly identify sites of potential non-compliance.

What this means for you

If you take water to use for irrigated agriculture, you must comply with regulations, the conditions of your works approval and/or water access licence.

Frequently asked questions

How can I check my water access licence and approvals?

Visit the NSW Water Register and read the terms and conditions of your works approval and water access licence.

Review how you manage water and ensure you comply with the conditions of your licences and approvals.

If you identify any issues, act quickly to change your methods. Or, to apply to change your licence or approval, contact WaterNSW on 1300 662 007 or via their website.

Why do I need to order water?

It’s important to order water so 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 down stream as well as the environment.

You can order water through the Water NSW website.

Do I need to comply with the new metering rules?

The NSW Government is rolling out new water metering rules in stages. These rules help measure water usage. They also promote fairness and build confidence in water management. When we check compliance on your property, we also confirm your metering compliance status.

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

What happens if I don't comply?

NRAR enforces the law to ensure fairness to those who do comply. If you fail to comply with the laws, you may face enforcement action. Any enforcement action taken will depend on the seriousness of the breach. For example, if you take water without a licence, or you take above your allocation, then an order requiring payment of up to five times the value of water taken may be imposed. Other responses to non-compliance may also include:

  • providing guidance
  • issuing warnings, cautions or fines
  • issuing statutory directions such as stop-work orders, directions to remove works or remediate
  • licence variations, suspension or cancellation
  • civil actions such as water charge penalties or injunctions
  • considering enforceable undertakings
  • prosecuting offenders.

Our Regulatory Policy and Prosecution Guidelines detail our approach to enforcement and prosecution.