Floodplain Harvesting licence rules in the water sharing plans for NSW Border Rivers

The Water Management (General) Amendment (Floodplain Harvesting Access Licences) Regulation 2022 which defined the process for issuing floodplain harvesting licences, was disallowed 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 requirements to measure and manage floodplain harvesting in these valleys.

About the plan

The rules for floodplain harvesting licences were included in the water sharing plan for the NSW Border Rivers Regulated River Water Source on 29 July 2022. Read the summary of the rules (PDF, 114.46 KB).

Public exhibition on the rules ran from 20 October until 30 November 2020.

The licensing framework for the Border Rivers began on 15 August 2022.

Past consultation sessions

The department held a public webinar, face-to-face public meetings in the NSW Border Rivers area, and a series of targeted consultation events with specific stakeholder groups. All stakeholders were provided with information about the implementation of the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy and water sharing rules for floodplain harvesting licenses in the NSW Border Rivers.

Report to assist community consultation

More information regarding the rules can be found in the Report to assist with community consultation PDF, 1100.51 KB.

Please note this report was updated on 20 October 2020 due to an error in Table 7.

Floodplain harvesting access licenses to be included in NSW Border Rivers water sharing plans

Floodplain harvesting (regulated river) access licences have been issued to eligible landholders within the NSW Border Rivers Regulated River Water Source, and rules for these licenses included in the Water Sharing Plan for the NSW Border Rivers Regulated River Water Source.

Please note, no floodplain harvesting (unregulated river) access licences will be issued in the NSW Border Rivers Unregulated River Water Sources, and therefore no rules are required to be included in the Water Sharing Plan for the NSW Border Rivers Unregulated River Water Sources 2012.

Reports

If you require assistance in reading these documents, please contact 1300 081 047 or water.enquiries@dpie.nsw.gov.au

Report to assist community consultation

The NSW Border Rivers: Floodplain harvesting in water sharing plans–Report to assist community consultation report aims to assist the community in understanding the proposed types of rules for floodplain harvesting access licences in the NSW Border Rivers. It also provides a summary of the other four technical reports and explains the interaction between the rules, modelling and the expected environmental benefits once they are put in place.

A supplementary report which compares the 5-year floodplain harvesting carryover rule with an annual account rule that prevents carryover has been developed. This report details the resulting entitlements and environmental outcomes of both scenarios.

Modelling reports

The NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy sets out a framework for bringing floodplain harvesting into a licensing framework to manage diversions within legal limits The policy requires that individual entitlements in regulated rivers systems will be informed by a capability assessment that considers the works used for floodplain harvesting and the opportunity to access floodplain flows based on location and climatic variability. This capability assessment is undertaken through river system models.

The department has developed two reports to describe how this work has been completed. Firstly, 'Building the river system model for the Border Rivers Valley regulated river system' describes the development of the Border Rivers valley river system model – its conceptualisation, construction and calibration. The model was developed using multiple lines of evidence and best available industry data. The report provides evidence and assessments to demonstrate that the model has made the best use of available data and methods for implementation of the policy.

Secondly, 'Floodplain Harvesting Entitlements for NSW Border Rivers Regulated River System: Model Scenarios Report', describes how the Source Model of the Border Rivers was used to estimate the baseline diversion limit, and to subsequently estimate individual floodplain harvesting entitlements.

Environmental outcomes reports

Harvesting of water from floodplains reduces the volume, frequency and duration of floods and can change the timing of flood events, impacting on the health of floodplains and downstream waterways. To manage unconstrained harvesting, the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy will bring floodplain harvesting under a licensing framework to provide a more sustainable level of water diversions from the floodplain.

Hydrological metrics needed to meet recruitment and maintenance needs of native fish, floodplain native vegetation, waterbirds, key ecosystem functions and wetlands were modelled for two scenarios. Implementation of the policy is predicted to improve the number of flow days, frequency and timing of floods for native fish, waterbirds and floodplain vegetation.

Environmental outcomes of implementing the Floodplain Harvesting Policy: Border Rivers report provides a detailed assessment of the likely benefits or disadvantages for the environment of implementing the policy in the NSW Border Rivers Valley.

A summary of the environmental outcomes predicted for the Border Rivers, Gwydir and Macquarie Valleys is available below.

Downstream effects reports

The NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy establishes a framework for licensing floodplain harvesting activities and managing floodplain diversions in a way that brings them back within statutory limits. The licencing framework will restrict the volume of water that can be taken from the floodplain providing gains to the system through foregone diversion.

Any gains in upstream systems such as the NSW Border Rivers will translate into the downstream with additional volumes originating in each of the Barwon-Darling tributary valleys contributing to connectivity between the broader northern basin system and provision of increased flows towards Menindee and into the Murray.

Modelled downstream effects of licensing floodplain harvesting in the NSW Border Rivers Valley report quantifies the potential downstream impacts of these increased flows. Subsequent reports will be made available in early 2021 that catalogue the impact of Policy implementation in the other Valleys. Each Valley will be looked at individually with additional analysis of the cumulative impact of licensing floodplain harvesting across the entire northern basin.

Independent peer review

The modelling reports for the Border Rivers valley has been independently peer-reviewed.

Compliance with water management principles

This document details how the department has complied with the water management principles outlined in the Water Management Act 2000 in the development of the Water Sharing Plan for the Border Rivers Regulated River Water Source 2020.

What we heard

This report summarises the feedback the NSW Government received during the public consultation sessions and from written submissions for the NSW Border Rivers.

Download report

In addition to the final rules detailed in the What we heard report, an additional rule has been proposed that acknowledges the connectivity between the Barwon-Darling valley and the northern inland tributary valleys, and ensure flows are temporarily protected from floodplain harvesting following a dry period. More information on this rule.

Rainfall Runoff Exemption Supplementary report

The proposed rainfall run-off exemption has the potential to impact floodplain harvesting modelling in the NSW Border Rivers valley. The department has proposed a regulation to exempt rainfall run-off that is collected in a tailwater return drain from requiring a water access licence and a water supply works approval. The successful commencement of this exemption will impact floodplain harvesting modelling in the NSW Border Rivers valley. This report clarifies the scale of this potential impact on licence shares, the environment, and downstream outcomes.