Floodplain harvesting licensing

Implementation dates for the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy have changed following disallowance of amendments to the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018 in 2020, 2021 and 2022, that defined the process for issuing floodplain harvesting licences and the measurement requirements on those licences. More recently, there was a disallowance of Water Management (General) Amendment (Floodplain Harvesting Access Licences) Regulation 2022 that defined the process for issuing floodplain harvesting licences on 21 September 2022. The amendments to the regulation defining measurement requirements for licences was not part of the disallowance on 21 September 2022.

The disallowance does not alter the validity of floodplain harvesting licences already determined for eligible water users in the NSW Border Rivers and Gwydir Valleys. The licensing framework commenced in these valleys on 15 August 2022 and this latest disallowance has no effect on the requirements to measure and manage floodplain harvesting in these valleys.

The department is committed to this important reform to ensure limits on take and measurement requirements, for floodplain harvesting in all Northern Basin valleys. Licensing will bring floodplain harvesting into line with other forms of take, enabling monitoring and management and providing certainty in the provision of water required for the environment and other water users.


Floodplain harvesting is the capture and use of water flowing across a floodplain. It is the last substantial form of water take to be licensed in NSW, and licensing will regulate it, meaning the NSW Government can better account for it and ensure it is compliant with rules and limits.

Licensing process

The licensing process for floodplain harvesting first commenced in 2013 in accordance with the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy. As a result of the recommendations of the independent review of the department’s implementation of the policy, in 2020 a farm scale validation process was also carried out. The section below provides more information on that process.

Section 57A of the Water Management Act 2000 (the Act) provides for special provisions relating to replacement floodplain harvesting access licences to be made in the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018 (the Regulation). Floodplain harvesting licences for the NSW Border Rivers and Gwydir Valleys were determined on 21 February 2022 in accordance with Part 2A of the Regulation, which establishes the eligibility criteria for a replacement floodplain harvesting access licence, the process that must be followed to determine the share component for a replacement floodplain harvesting access licence and how to determine the licence category that an eligible landholder will receive.

For information on how the department has complied with requirements for determining replacement floodplain harvesting licences under the Regulation, refer to the fact sheet on Compliance with regulations for issuing licences PDF, 256.52 KB.

Volumetric conversion

The licensing process for floodplain harvesting associated with an unregulated river water source relies on a repeat of the volumetric conversion process used when licences converted from the Water Act 1912 to the Water Management Act 2000. This process is based on a limit to the area that can be irrigated and associated limit on the volume of water that can be extracted.

For more information on the volumetric conversion process please refer to the following historical booklet for landholders Volumetric Conversion – the next stage, September 2000 (PDF, 6686.58 KB).

For more information on how the volumetric conversion process is used to determine floodplain harvesting access licences associated with an unregulated river, please refer to the Guidelines for the implementation (PDF, 516.95 KB) of the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy.

Farm scale validation

See amendments to water regulations for floodplain harvesting.

The eligibility of works capable of floodplain harvesting were determined using the following sources of information:

  • data collection by department staff during onsite property inspections
  • information provided to the department by landholders
  • historical remote sensing data
  • climatic records
  • topographic and parish maps
  • floodplain models
  • observed rainfall, streamflow and headworks storage records
  • published literature
  • data and information provided by duly qualified practitioners.

For further information on the farm scale validation process please refer to the Licensing Farm Scale Validation Process PDF, 640.18 KB.

Farm scale validation process

NSW Healthy Floodplains Review Committee

The NSW Healthy Floodplains Review Committee was established to:

  • Facilitate the orderly and equitable consideration of landholders’ requests to be considered eligible for a floodplain harvesting licence.
  • Review and assess submissions by the floodplain harvesting registrants with respect to the department’s determinations of eligibility of works or draft entitlements for replacement floodplain harvesting (unregulated river) access licences, except for the Barwon-Darling valley.

Membership of the committee is by invitation from the Deputy Secretary, NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment – Water. The committee operates under established Terms of Reference.

Landholders received a letter to notify them of the determinations made by the NSW Healthy Floodplains Review Committee for eligible works and submissions on the volumetric entitlements for replacement floodplain harvesting (unregulated river) access licences, except for the Barwon-Darling valley. These letters advised landholders of the recommendations made to the department, for each issue raised in their submissions. The letters also confirmed that the department would consider the NSW Healthy Floodplains Review Committee’s advice and communicate its final determination to landholders in due course.

When the decision-making process had been exhausted and the NSW Healthy Floodplains Review Committee were not able to reach consensus, the members provided a report outlining their position to the Chief Executive Officer, NSW Water Sector who decided on the matter. These decisions and related materials are published in the Healthy Floodplains library.

At completion of the licensing process, final determinations will be used to issue floodplain harvesting access licences.

The Healthy Floodplains Review Committee meeting minutes are published in the Healthy Floodplains library.

Independent peer reviews

Both Maddocks and Alluvium were engaged to undertake independent reviews during the course of the Healthy Floodplains Project. For more information and to read the reports visit the Independent peer reviews on floodplain harvesting page.