About floodplain harvesting measurement

NSW, a national leader in floodplain measurement

NSW has launched a robust new Floodplain Harvesting Measurement Policy 2020 for the northern Murray–Darling Basin. The policy delivers on commitments and recommendations made in:

The policy applies to landholders in the northern Murray–Darling Basin who will receive a floodplain harvesting water-access licence under the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy (2018) in 2021.

The policy is a historic achievement. It will, for the first time, enable floodplain harvesting to be accurately measured and water taken in accordance with the individual licensed volumes and legal limits prescribed in the Murray–Darling Basin Plan 2012 and NSW water-sharing plans. This will support a fair system of floodplain access and improve flows for downstream communities and the environment.

To ensure high-quality data informs compliance with the legal limits, the department requires landholders to install minimum-standard telemetry-enabled metering devices fitted with tamper-evident seals. The move to automated metering for floodplain harvesting measurement aligns with other water reforms, such as the NSW non-urban water metering framework (2018). Together, these programs will deliver accurate, transparent and reliable water-take data for managing our valuable water resources and ensuring all water users are doing the right thing. Below are answers some of the most frequently asked questions about the policy.

Frequently asked questions

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 eight simple steps to becoming measurement-ready. The department is developing fact sheets for each step to guide you through the process. Fact Sheet 1 will provide you with an overview of the key steps. You may use the fact sheets to answer some of your implementation questions or to navigate your way through the ‘Measurement Ready’ requirements.

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.

Fact sheets and guidelines will be made available on the website and emailed to water users.

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.

Watch the video below–Measuring floodplain harvesting take.