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.

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 protection for 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.

Licensing rainfall runoff from irrigation areas when other floodplain harvesting water is being taken will provide state-wide equity for this form of take. It will also enable floodplain harvesting regulatory reforms, such as measurement, to be implemented effectively and practically - watch the management of rainfall runoff from irrigation areas video below: