NSW Floodplain Harvesting Measurement Policy

Why is a floodplain measurement policy needed?

Irrigation practices in the northern Murray–Darling Basin have historically seen landowners use significant volumes of water from the floodplain environment. Even though the water harvested is additional to water from other licensed extractions, floodplain harvesting practices are critical to business productivity and the region’s economic viability. The intermittent availability of floodwater has led to large-scale development of on-farm storages intended to improve the reliability of water supply for irrigated agriculture enterprises.

The job of the NSW Government is to regulate water take to ensure a fair share for all, including downstream users and the environment. To do this, we need to have accurate measurement systems for the take of floodplain water as specified in formal policy.

What is the measurement policy?

Under the Water Management Act 2000, all floodplain harvesting extractions must be taken under an appropriate water access licence, a basic landholder right or a licence exemption. Historically, floodplain harvesting diversions have been unlicensed and unmonitored in NSW. Several legislative changes have been made to bring this practice into line. These include the:

  • Floodplain Harvesting Policy 2018, which provides the regulatory framework for licensing floodplain harvesting extractions
  • Floodplain Harvesting Measurement Policy 2020, which sets out the objectives, methods and rules for floodplain harvesting measurement in the northern NSW Murray–Darling Basin. You can find more information on the department’s website.

How was the measurement policy developed?

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has consulted a wide range of stakeholders about developing a measurement approach for floodplain harvesting. These consultations have included users directly affected by the reforms in the northern basin; Aboriginal and First Nations peoples, downstream users and communities; and environmental groups.

This collaborative approach means that the views of stakeholders have been actively canvassed throughout the development process. The department has worked to balance, as far as practical, the many competing stakeholder objectives.

The measurement policy reflects the first measurement requirements for floodplain harvesting in NSW and leads the way across Australia.

What does the measurement policy cover?

The measurement policy will initially apply to the five northern NSW Murray–Darling Basin valleys: Border Rivers, Gwydir, Namoi, Barwon–Darling and Macquarie valleys.

The measurement policy requires all eligible floodplain harvesting works to be licensed with a water supply works approval. Owners must adopt a measurement method and have an automated measurement device fitted as set out in the policy. This will help to ensure that landholders remain within their licence limit and conditions.

What do water users need to do to be measurement-ready?

The minister requires landholders who receive a floodplain harvesting access licence to contract a duly qualified person to install telemetry-enabled metering equipment. The equipment must transmit water data to the department’s data acquisition service, as specified in the policy.

There are four simple steps to becoming measurement ready. The department is developing guidelines to help landholders understand and navigate their way through the measurement ready requirements. The guidelines also answer detailed technical questions about how to establish compliant measurement for your property.

We are also developing NSW Floodplain Harvesting Measurement Guidelines to help industry understand how to maintain compliance with all elements of the measurement policy, and to answer more detailed technical questions about how to establish compliant measurement specific to your property.

The guidelines will be released over the coming months and will be made available on the website.

Changes to the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018

As part of the NSW Government's commitment to regulating and measuring floodplain harvesting, changes to the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018 are being proposed. Submissions on the proposed amendments to the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018 have now closed. The department has committed to providing reports that summarise what the NSW Government heard in the written submissions received. The 'what we heard' report will be available early 2021.

What are the timeframes for implementing the measurement policy?

The roll out of the measurement policy will be staged, but you should work towards being measurement-ready by 1 July 2021. We will begin compliance activities after this date for those licenses that are included in the initial roll out.

Further detail on the roll out stages is available.