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 located near a river, estuary or lake, or within a floodplain. The work 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 include, but are not limited to:
      • 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 certain activities in, on, or beside rivers, lakes and estuaries.
    • Examples of activities that need 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 rights dam, or
  • a water supply bore, including a bore to take water under a basic landholder right.

A water supply work approval ensures that the construction or use of a dam or bore does not impact 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
  • water taken under native title rights, or
  • water taken under harvestable rights.

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. They do this before making a decision about granting the application.

The responsible agency may refuse your application if there will be 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 under the existing terms and conditions of approval. You will need a water licence to take water, unless a landholder right or licence exemption applies.

You will not become the approval holder if the approval is 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 approvals by a specific landholding or a water source.

When is a pumping test required?

Applications for new or extra bores may need to include the results of a pumping test. We will tell you if we need pumping test information with your application.

Where there is an existing extraction limit condition on a bore, you can request a review of this condition. You must provide pumping test results to inform this review.

We generally use pumping test results to inform local hydraulic parameters in the impact assessment. Also,  these results can help you find out the best pumping rate for your bore.

The Australian Standard for ‘Test pumping of water wells’ (AS 2368—1990) governs pumping tests in Australia. The ‘Minimum requirements PDF, 2876.18 KB for pumping tests on water bores in New South Wales’ align with the standard. The design, execution and reporting of pumping tests must follow these minimum requirements. This ensures pumping test results are meaningful and reported in a consistent way.

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

What you need to take and use water in New South Wales

Watch the video below.