Extraction limits

Important information

This page provides background information about the limits. For more information about compliance outcomes visit tracking surface water and groundwater.

What are the limits and why are they important?

In New South Wales all water sharing plans include long-term average annual extraction limits (LTAAELs). Any NSW water sharing plan for a water source within the Murray Darling Basin will also include a sustainable diversion limit (SDL), as set by the Basin Plan 2012.  This page includes information on how the two limits work, how they differ and why we have two separate limits.

The extraction limits are used to enable the long-term objectives of NSW water sharing plans and the Basin Plan 2012 to be met. These limits are designed to protect water resources, dependent ecosystems and communities from the impacts of over-extraction in the longer term. They reinforce the value of water, support the water market and the integrity of tradeable water entitlements.

The NSW water sharing plans either specify the extraction limits or how the limits are calculated. The water sharing plans also specify how we assess if the extraction limits have been exceeded and any compliance action that is required. For example, the Minister may need to reduce access for a particular category of access licence in the years following an identified breach of a limit to return extractions to that limit. These steps are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Figure 1 Extraction limits and potential impact on water allocation.

*If the SDL outcomes are “compliant with a reasonable excuse”, there may still be a need to take action specified in the WSP to reduce water use to the limits.

The extraction limits are designed to manage extractions at a whole of water source scale. In addition to these, a water sharing plan will also include other rules which apply to individual licence water allocation accounts. These rules typically deal with how water allocations can be credited and debited from individual accounts and will differ between water sharing plans.

Have we checked for compliance with the LTAAEL and SDL?

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment have completed these compliance assessments for groundwater:

  • The department released a dashboard showing average extraction against extraction limits for all inland groundwater sources for the current water year (based on extraction data available at the time) and the likelihood of extraction exceeding limits. The dashboard also shows average extraction for past years against LTAAEL compliance triggers.
  • The department has also been completing transitional SDL compliance assessments, which the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has published on its website.

We have also been undertaking transitional SDL compliance assessments for surface water systems. Previous assessments for LTAAEL compliance for surface water systems have been limited due to a lack of data availability. New data sets, for example through the healthy floodplains project and the non-urban water metering policy, will address these issues and the department is committed to ongoing implementation of LTAAEL compliance assessments.

The water sharing plans specify how compliance with the extraction limit is to be assessed. Two key concepts to note are:

  • The amount that can be extracted by all water users varies each year. While we use long-term averages when describing limits, annual extractions may be above or below average, depending on water availability.
  • The limits apply to total water use, rather than a separate limit for each category of access licence.

For further information on how the limits work, view Extraction limits.