NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy

There has been growth in floodplain harvesting across the NSW northern Basin. In some areas, water diversions have increased above the legal limits set under water sharing plans and the Basin Plan. This growth needs to be reduced to comply with the legal limits.

The NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy sets out the process for bringing floodplain harvesting into the water licensing framework. It involves creating new work approvals, licences, rules and ways of measuring floodplain harvesting so that the harvesting take can be managed within the legal limits.

We believe this is the best way to ensure that all water users, and the environment, get their fair share. Amendments to the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018 commenced on 1 July 2022, setting out the process for issuing floodplain harvesting licences and the measurement requirements on those licences.

The NSW Government is committed to implementing the policy across the northern Basin valleys as a priority. Floodplain harvesting licences were determined for the NSW Border Rivers and Gwydir valleys in February 2022. The licensing framework for floodplain harvesting will come into effect in August-September 2022 in the NSW Border Rivers and Gwydir valleys and will be rolled out progressively across the Macquarie, Barwon Darling and Namoi valleys.

Download and read the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy.

To learn more about floodplain harvesting read our online fact sheets and infographics or watch our videos.

Implementation of policy

Implementing the Floodplain Harvesting Policy

This Guideline details the implementation process for the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy. The sections within this guideline explain the processes of issuing and implementing floodplain harvesting access licences and approvals in NSW and managing the take of water associated with floodplain harvesting.

To read further, download the Floodplain Harvesting Implementation Guideline.

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.

Rainfall runoff

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.

Management of rainfall runoff from irrigation areas