Floodplain harvesting

Floodplain harvesting is the collection, extraction or impoundment of water flowing across floodplains that is not taken under another water access licence, a basic landholder right or a licence exemption.

The NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy was released in May 2013. The Policy applies to all floodplain harvesting within NSW and provides a framework for licensing floodplain extractions and approving floodplain harvesting works.

Frequently asked questions

Why do we need a Floodplain Harvesting Policy?

Water that flows across floodplains provides a valuable source of water to local and downstream water users and plays an important role in replenishing floodplains, rivers, wetlands and groundwater.

The NSW Government developed the Policy to provide a framework for licensing floodplain harvesting extractions to more effectively manage floodplain water extractions for the benefit of existing water users and the environment.

For more information download the Floodplain harvesting licensing fact sheet

How is the policy being implemented?

The policy is currently being implemented in the Gwydir, Namoi, Border Rivers, Macquarie and Barwon–Darling Valleys where floodplain harvesting is most prevalent. For more information visit  NSW Healthy Floodplains Project.

How will floodplain harvesting be monitored?

There is currently no monitoring of floodplain harvesting diversions. The capacity to monitor floodplain harvesting diversions is one of the significant advantages of bringing these diversions into the licensing framework.

In anticipation of floodplain harvesting licences, a draft floodplain harvesting monitoring strategy was placed on public exhibition during April 2017. Nine formal submissions were received as part of this process.

In light of the submissions received as well as the recommendations made by Ken Matthews in his final report Independent investigation into NSW water management and compliance, a staged approach to improving the monitoring of floodplain harvesting diversions has been investigated.

This staged approach acknowledges the challenges to effective monitoring in the floodplain harvesting context but aims to improve rigour over time.

The proposed staged approach includes:

  • a minimum requirement for water users to measure storage volume through gauge boards and calibrated storage curves to account for floodplain harvesting during the first three years of implementation
  • identifying alternative measurement approaches during the first two years of implementation
  • evaluating the performance of the minimum requirement against the policy objectives after the first two years of implementation
  • a revised minimum requirement implemented (if required) after the third year of implementation.

Public consultation occurred in April 2018.

Floodplain harvesting entitlements

The capture of water flowing across a floodplain will require a floodplain harvesting access licence and a water supply work approval authorised under the Water Management Act 2000. Floodplain harvesting access licences are yet to be issued. Draft floodplain harvesting entitlements have been released in the Gwydir and Border Rivers valleys and are scheduled to be finalised by June 2018.

Entitlement modelling for the Barwon–Darling, Macquarie and Namoi valleys is ongoing with the Barwon–Darling and Macquarie the most advanced.

Floodplain harvesting licences and water supply work approvals for all five Northern valleys are scheduled to be in place by June 2019.

Flood work approvals

What is a flood work?

flood work means a work that is:

  • situated in or in the vicinity of a river, estuary or lake, or within a floodplain, and is
  • of such a size or configuration that (regardless of the purpose for which it is constructed or used), it is likely to have an effect on the flow of water to or from a river, estuary or lake, or the distribution or flow of floodwater in times of flood.

Examples include:

  • a barrage
  • a causeway
  • a cutting
  • an embankment
  • a levee to prevent inundation of flood water
  • a storage structure
  • a building pad
  • a below ground channel

Flood works also include all associated pipes, valves, metering equipment and other equipment.

Flood work approvals are granted by Water NSW as part of their role in managing access to water and ensuring water is shared equitably between the environment, farmers and industry.

For application forms, guides and information go to flood work approvals.

Status of flood work approvals

Use the online NSW Water Register to search for information about:

  • the status of flood work approvals, including conditions
  • approval applications.