Proposed legislative amendments for floodplain harvesting in NSW

As part of the NSW Government's commitment to regulating and measuring floodplain harvesting, changes to the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018 to include floodplain harvesting requirements are being proposed.

The proposed changes aim to improve the management of floodplain harvesting and will:

  • allow for floodplain harvesting licences to be issued,
  • apply measurement requirements to floodplain harvesting, in line with NSW Government’s Floodplain Harvesting Measurement Policy (PDF 630.7 KB)
  • establish a state-wide exemption for tailwater drains
  • ensure water users are confident in what can and cannot be taken from a floodplain prior to licenses being issued.

Proposed changes to the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018

Establish a state-wide exemption for tailwater return drains

The intent of this exemption is to recognise that measuring rainfall run-off collected in a tailwater drain is complex, particularly as much of the run-off may be used irrigation water that has already been measured under an existing water access licence. This change will provide an exemption from the need for a water supply work approval for the use of tailwater drain.

It will also provide an exemption from the need for a water access licence for the collection of rainfall run-off from an irrigated field into a tailwater drain when no other overland flow is being taken by works on the land, other than a tailwater drain.

During times when this exemption does not apply, the volume of water collected in a tailwater drain must be measured and accounted for under a licence.

Embed the floodplain harvesting licence determination process

This sets out the processes for how actual or proposed floodplain water usage by landholders will be converted it into replacement floodplain harvesting licences. Several stages are undertaken in the determination process for these licences. If a landholder meets the requirements of each stage, a floodplain harvesting access licence will be issued, with share components determined in accordance with the process set out in the Regulation.

Implement the NSW Government’s Floodplain Harvesting Measurement Policy

Under the proposed changes, storages used to collect water under a floodplain harvesting access licence must be fitted with compliant metering, data logging and telemetry equipment, and tamper-evident seals. Equipment will need to be installed and signed off by a ‘duly qualified person’.

The deadline for installing compliant equipment will be 1 July 2021 or 1 July 2022, depending on the size of the storage and its frequency of use. All water taken under a floodplain harvesting licence from 1 July 2021 will need to be measured.

The proposed changes also set out requirements for reporting water take during a flood event and processes to follow if metering equipment fails.

You can learn more about measuring floodplain harvesting take by watching this video.

Establish a transitional exemption for floodplain harvesting that will cease on 30 June 2021

This amendment is intended to provide clarity on the use of eligible works for floodplain harvesting prior to the licencing and regulatory framework being complete or 1 July 2021, whichever is sooner.

The proposed amendment will provide a temporary exemption from the need to hold a water access licence and water supply work approval when undertaking floodplain harvesting using an eligible work. For the purpose of this regulation eligible works are limited to approved works only.

Reporting and measurement requirements are included in this proposed amendment, along with penalties for failing to meet those requirements.

What we heard report

Submissions on the proposed amendments to the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018 have now closed. The department has committed to providing reports that summarise what the NSW Government heard in the written submissions received.

The 'what we heard' report will be available early 2021.