Types of approvals

  • Water supply work approvals allow you to construct and use a work that takes water from a river, lake or aquifer.
    • Examples of water supply works are:
      • water pumps
      • water bores
      • dams
      • weirs
      • irrigation channels
      • banks and levees.
  • Flood work approvals allow you to construct and use a work that is situated in or near a river, estuary or lake, or within a floodplain, and is likely to affect the:
    • flow of water to or from a river, estuary or lake, or
    • distribution or flow of floodwater in times of flood.
    • Examples of flood works are:
      • barrages
      • causeways
      • cuttings
      • embankments
      • levees to prevent inundation of flood waters
      • building pads
      • below-ground channels.
  • Water use approvals allow you to use water on your land.
    • Examples of water uses that require approval are:
      • Irrigation
      • town water supply
      • power generation
      • mining.
  • Controlled activity approvals allow you to carry out particular types of activities in, on, or beside rivers, lakes and estuaries.
    • Examples of water uses that require approval are:
      • erecting a building
      • removing or depositing material
      • removing vegetation
      • constructing a bridge, causeway or other kind of watercourse crossing
      • laying pipe and cables
      • constructing stormwater outlets.

Basic landholder rights

Water supply work approvals

You do not need a water supply work approval for:

  • pumps, pipes, troughs or tanks to take and store water from a river under a basic landholder right, or
  • harvestable rights dams.

You need a water supply work approval to construct:

  • a dam that is not a harvestable right dam, or
  • a water supply bore, including a bore to take water under a basic landholder right.

The requirement for a water supply work approval is to ensure the dam or bore is constructed properly and will not have negative effects on the water source, environment or other water users.

Water use approvals

You do not need a water use approval to use water for domestic consumption, stock watering or native title rights, or to use water taken under a harvestable right.

How do I get a new approval? 

You can apply for a new approval by submitting an application to the responsible agency.

Some types of applications for new water supply work approvals must be advertised. This allows other people in the local area to make an objection to the granting of the application. The responsible agency tries to resolve any issues raised by an objection before making a decision about granting the application.

Your application may be refused if the responsible agency considers that the proposed work or activity will have more than a minimal impact on a water source or the environment.

Approvals cannot be traded to another person or location.

What happens if I buy land which already has an approval?

If you buy land with an existing approval, you will generally become the approval holder.

This means you will be able to use the approved work or carry out the approved activity in accordance with the terms and conditions of the approval. You will need to obtain a water licence to take water unless a landholder right or licence exemption applies.

You will not become the approval holder in certain circumstances. You will not become the approval holder if the approval is already held by a water utility, irrigation corporation, private irrigation board, private drainage board, or private water trust.

Information about existing approvals is available on the NSW Water Register. You can search for information about approvals for a specific landholding or a water source.

When is a pumping test required?

New or additional bore applications may need to be supported by the results of a pumping test. The department will advise you if you must provide pumping test information with your application.

Where there is an existing extraction limit condition on a bore, the approval holder can request a review of this condition if pumping test results are provided to inform this review.

The department generally uses pumping test results to inform local hydraulic parameters in the impact assessment.

Additionally, pumping test results can also help inform users of the optimum pumping rate for their bore.

The Australian Standard for ‘Test pumping of water wells’ (AS 2368—1990) governs pumping tests in Australia. Within NSW, specific minimum requirements have been developed to align with the standard so that the results obtained from pumping tests are meaningful and reported consistently.

All required testing must be designed, carried out and reported in accordance with the ‘Minimum requirements for pumping tests on water bores in New South Wales (PDF 2.8 MB)’.

These minimum requirements supersede previous agency guidance on pumping tests for water bores, such as the ‘Coastal groundwater—Test pumping groundwater assessment guidelines for bore licence applications’ (NSW Office of Water, 2010).