Floodplain harvesting program

Floodplain harvesting is the capture and use of water flowing across a floodplain. This is an important source of water for industry, particularly in the Northern Murray–Darling Basin areas of NSW.

Floodplain harvesting is the last substantial capture of water to be licensed in the Basin. Bringing floodplain harvesting into the licensing system will improve accounting and compliance of water use in NSW.

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NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy

There has been growth in floodplain harvesting across many parts of the NSW northern basin that has caused an increase in water diversions above legal limits set under Water Sharing Plans and the Basin Plan.

This growth needs to be offset in order to comply with Water Sharing Plans and Basin Plan limits.

In 2013, the NSW Government introduced the Floodplain Harvesting Policy to stop unconstrained floodplain harvesting by bringing it into a licensing framework. Implementing the Policy will function to restrict current floodplain diversions so that they return to statutory limits. The policy is currently being implemented in the designated floodplains of the five northern NSW valleys.

Download and read the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy.

Floodplain harvesting licences and approvals for all five northern basin valleys are scheduled to be in place by July 2021.

Watch the Regulating Floodplain Harvesting video for more information.

Implementing the Floodplain Harvesting Policy

Changes made to the policy in 2018

The policy changes reflect lessons learnt during the initial implementation. They incorporate feedback from all stakeholders made as part of a formal submission process in March to April 2018. The policy now:

  • allows a valley to manage growth in use by applying an overall plan limit or splitting the limit into floodplain harvesting and non-floodplain harvesting components
  • clarifies that ‘floodplain harvesting’ includes the capture of rainfall run-off
  • provides for a rigorous, staged approach to improving monitoring of floodplain harvesting
  • allows the development of valley-specific account management rules.

Key benefits of the changes

The proposed amendments will ensure that NSW remains at the forefront of best practice management of floodplain harvesting diversions by:

  • providing more clarity and certainty about how floodplain harvesting will be managed
  • better protecting downstream users and the environment from the effects of unconstrained floodplain harvesting
  • improving the social licence for legitimate floodplain harvesting activities to continue
  • providing a licensing framework that is the basis for an effective compliance and enforcement regime
  • ensuring that water-sharing rules for floodplain harvesting are transparent and publicly consulted on, for improved economic, social and environmental outcomes.

Building public confidence and trust

Watch the video on Building Public Confidence.

Probity review into floodplain harvesting licensing

Licensing processes are essential in establishing floodplain harvesting entitlements and so having confidence in this process is critical. A probity review, undertaken by the legal firm Maddock’s, has looked at the processes leading up to the granting of floodplain harvesting works approvals. The probity review found that the licensing processes used were lawful, well documented and that the eligibility criteria were consistently applied.

Independent peer review into floodplain harvesting

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) together with the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) commissioned an independent peer review of implementation of the Floodplain Harvesting Policy in northern NSW. The key objective of the review is to provide transparency around the technical information and to provide stakeholders with confidence that the technical rigour and supporting processes are suitable to support policy implementation.

There are many complexities and uncertainties associated with modelling on-farm floodplain harvesting. Over the past 6 years the department has invested significantly in technologies such as remote sensing, computer modelling and data to build accuracy and confidence in the estimate of floodplain harvesting volumetric entitlements.

The independent review report confirms that NSW is on the right track towards implementing the policy, however makes some key recommendations for improvement, which the Department has accepted in full and responded to in Floodplain Harvesting Action Plan.


General questions

General questions relating to Floodplain Harvesting can be sent at any time to floodplain.harvesting@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Water sharing rules – floodplain harvesting

Submissions relating to water sharing rules for floodplain harvesting should be made through the water resource planning process.

Floodplain harvesting draft entitlements

Following the release of draft floodplain harvesting entitlements, a submission process for comments will be provided. Submissions should be made if individual floodplain harvesting modelling (to be provided at the same time as draft floodplain harvesting entitlements) does not accurately reflect the variability in diversions from eligible floodplain harvesting works. Submissions should include verifiable evidence to support any claims made. All submissions will be referred to the Healthy Floodplains Review Committee for advice before a final decision is made by the NSW Department of Industry.

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