Tracking surface water extractions against extraction limits

The amount of surface water that can be extracted from a surface water source is limited. While the amount extracted by all water users varies each year, on average it cannot exceed the extraction limits. All NSW water sharing plans include long-term average annual extraction limits (LTAAEL). In the Murray Darling Basin, Water Sharing Plans will also include the relevant Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) as set by the Basin Plan.

Find out more about how these limits are defined and what the differences are between LTAAEL and SDL compliance.

NSW prepares and submits a self- assessment of compliance with SDL. SDL compliance assessment is reviewed and published by MDBA .

Important information

Under the Basin Plan, 2019-20 is the first water year that compliance with the SDL is enforceable. The Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has rejected the department’s claim for reasonable excuse for going over its Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) in the Barwon Darling. 

Read our FAQs to find out more.


The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment are responsible for checking LTAAEL compliance. This has been limited for surface water systems due to a lack of data availability. New data sets, for example through the healthy floodplains project, will address these issues and the department is committed to ongoing implementation of LTAAEL compliance assessments. Find out more about the approach planned.

Results from modelling published under the healthy floodplains program show that the Border Rivers and Gwydir regulated rivers have exceeded the LTAAEL and that compliance action is required. As a result, the available water determination (AWD) made for supplementary water access licences at the commencement of the 2021-22 water year was reduced for the Border Rivers and Gwydir, as per current water sharing plan requirements. For more information visit Reduced supplementary water access allocations in the Border Rivers and Gwydir 2021-22.

Targeted management actions to directly address growth in floodplain harvesting, rather than relying on restrictions to other licence categories, can be taken once floodplain harvesting licensing has been implemented.