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.

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. It will then be rolled out across the state on a risk basis.

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 early 2020.

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

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

To improve stakeholder confidence, the NSW Department of Industry together with the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), have commissioned an independent peer review of implementation of the Floodplain Harvesting Policy in northern NSW.

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 key objective of the review is to provide transparency around the technical information and to also provide stakeholders with the confidence that the technical rigour and supporting processes are suitable to support policy implementation.

Public submission on draft independent peer review report

Over the past 6 months the peer reviewers have been directly consulting with stakeholders.

From these meetings and public feedback the peer review team have now released a draft report. The draft report makes some key recommendations for improvement which the department has accepted in full. The department is working hard to develop a detailed action plan in response to the review.

The draft report is open for another round of public feedback before it is finalised. Public submissions on the draft report is open from 8 May until 22 May 2019 and can be made to:

Submissions should detail any comments or concerns that you have in relation to the draft report.

The independent reviewers will consider all feedback ahead of finalising the peer review. It is currently anticipated that a final peer review report will be released to stakeholders in June 2019.

Information on the peer review process including scope, recommendations and stakeholder consultation can be found below.

Workshop series 1

Workshop series 1 involves three (3) workshops in Dubbo, Sydney and Tamworth in October 2018. The purpose of this workshop series 1 is to:

  • communicate process for finalising floodplain harvesting modelling
  • overview the model refinement process including data sources and verification processes
  • test key floodplain harvesting modelling assumptions
  • provide information about the independent review of NSW floodplain harvesting policy implementation including the modelling peer review process
  • test key monitoring and auditing requirements.
Dubbo Monday 8 October 2018 
Sydney Wednesday 10 October 2018 
Tamworth Friday 12 October 2018

Workshop series 2

Workshop series 2 community consultation has been scheduled for August and September.

Dates and locations for these sessions will be released soon.

Independent peer review

To improve stakeholder confidence, the department together with the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) have commissioned an independent review of NSW floodplain harvesting policy implementation including independent peer review of revised floodplain harvesting modelling in Northern NSW.

The focus of the independent review is to ensure that the modelling is technically robust, based on the best available information and that implementation of the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy is consistent with relevant legislation and other related policies.

As the scope (PDF 300.2 KB) of the independent review contains both technical and policy implementation related matters, two independent reviewers have been appointed.

Tony Weber is one of Australia’s leading practitioners in the hydrologic modelling and water quality fields. He has worked in both government and consulting roles in the waterway management, modelling and water quality disciplines at technical and management levels, including in water treatment, laboratory analysis, strategic planning, research coordination, consulting and peer review areas. Tony is currently the National Lead – Water Modelling with consulting company Alluvium based in Brisbane, Queensland and has over 30 years’ experience in the water industry delivering a range of catchment modelling, water sensitive urban design, integrated water management, water quality and stormwater management projects. He is passionate about collaboration and science based decision making and promotes these in all his projects.

Greg Claydon, now retired from full-time work, has extensive water industry and natural resources management knowledge, experience and achievements, built primarily on his roles as a senior executive with Queensland’s and Western Australia’s state government water, environment, natural resources and primary industries agencies, and his very active involvement in industry and community initiatives and networks. He is recognised at state, national and international levels for his work in water and associated natural resources reforms, in whole of river basin planning and management, and in integrated urban water planning and management. During his working career, Greg was actively involved in several inter-jurisdictional water and natural resources initiatives, including those covering the Council of Australian Governments (CoAG), the Murray-Darling Basin, the Lake Eyre Basin, the Great Artesian Basin and the Ord River Basin. Greg has tertiary qualifications in agricultural engineering and has work experience in New Zealand, Canada, the USA, the Caribbean, Japan, Singapore, Turkey and China. He was awarded a Public Service Medal (PSM) by the Governor-General of Australia in the 2009 Australia Day Honours Awards for outstanding public service in natural resources management and water reform.


General questions

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

Submissions on the draft independent review report

Written submissions on the draft independent peer review report can be made from 8 May - 22 May 2019 and can be made to:

These submissions should detail any comments or concerns that you have in relation to the draft report.

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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