Harvestable rights - dams

The department is currently undertaking a review of harvestable rights for all coastal draining catchments. The review is exploring the potential benefits and impacts of increasing the harvestable rights percentage, as well as allowing harvestable rights dams on third order streams.

We are in the process of finalising a discussion paper and detailed supporting information.

A public consultation phase will be undertaken before any recommendations are made to the NSW Government. We were planning to run regional meetings to discuss these issues with stakeholders, but depending on the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on the capacity to travel and meet with groups face-to-face, this may instead need to involve a series of webinars and the use of other communication tools.

If you would like to register your interest in the review so that you are informed when the public consultation phase commences, please email your details to harvestablerights.review@dpie.nsw.gov.au.


Landholders can collect a proportion of the rainfall run-off from their property in one or more dams on non-permanent, mapped minor streams, or unmapped streams, without a water licence, water supply work approval or water use approval.

The proportion of rainfall run-off you can capture under your harvestable right depends on where your land is located:

  • In the Central and Eastern Divisions of NSW, up to 10% of average annual regional rainfall run-off can be captured.
  • In the Western Division of NSW, all rainfall run-off can be captured.

The boundaries of these harvestable rights areas are shown in the map below.

Boundaries of these harvestable rights areas

Harvestable rights orders

The harvestable rights areas and the rules for capturing rainfall run-off in those areas are specified in Harvestable Rights Orders, which are published in the NSW Government Gazette. The rules specified in the Orders relate to issues including:

  • how much run-off can be captured in a location
  • where harvestable rights dams may and may not be located
  • the method for calculating the Maximum Harvestable Right Dam Capacity for a property, including what types of dams are included and excluded from the calculation
  • arrangements for sharing harvestable rights water where a harvestable rights dam crosses a property boundary
  • the method for calculating the harvestable right water available from a dam which is also used for other water rights (a 'mixed right dam').

The current Harvestable Rights Orders are available in the NSW Government Gazette number 40 dated 31 March 2006 at pages 1628 to 1631.

Information about the total dam capacity allowed under harvestable rights for your property, and where you can build a dam without a water licence or approval, is available on the WaterNSW website.