Floodplain harvesting licence rules in the water sharing plans for Gwydir valley

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 water sharing plans within the Gwydir valley on 29 July 2022.

Public exhibition on the rules ran from 12 February 2021 until 12 March 2021.

The licensing framework for the Gwydir valley began on 15 August 2022.

Past consultation sessions

The department held a public webinar, face-to-face public meetings in the Gwydir valley 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 Gwydir valley.

Technical reports

The below technical reports were developed by the department to help inform the development of the floodplain harvesting licensing rules in the Gwydir valley.

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 Gwydir: 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 Gwydir valley. 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.

Modelling reports

The NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy requires that individual entitlements in regulated river systems are 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 following reports were updated May 2022, addressing some minor corrections and clarifications to reports previously published in February 2022.

Previous versions of these modelling reports were published in February 2021 and February 2022. The previous versions are available below:

These reports were independently peer-reviewed in January-February 2021 and subsequent reports have incorporated ongoing improvements and refinements, including feedback from the independent review: - Gwydir reports review–summary, January 2021.

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. The NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy will provide a more sustainable level of water diversions from the floodplain.

Hydrological metrics for 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: Gwydir report provides a detailed assessment of the likely benefits for the environment of implementing the policy in the Gwydir 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 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 Gwydir valley 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 Lakes and into the River Murray.

Modelled downstream effects of licensing floodplain harvesting in the Gwydir valley report quantifies the potential downstream impacts of these increased flows. This report includes work completed for the NSW Border Rivers and the Gwydir valleys.

Rainfall Runoff Exemption Supplementary report

The proposed rainfall run-off exemption has the potential to impact floodplain harvesting modelling in the NSW Gwydir 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 Gwydir valley. This report clarifies the scale of this potential impact on licence shares, the environment, and downstream outcomes.


Floodplain harvesting (regulated river) access licences – rule summary

Type of ruleProposed rule for floodplain harvesting

Account management

Take limit: 5 ML per unit share over three consecutive years

Carryover: Unlimited, subject to the account limit

Available water determination

Initial available water determination of 5 ML per unit share, or

Initial available water determination of 1 ML per unit share, or a lesser amount to ensure compliance with the extraction limit

Available water determination of 1 ML per unit share every year after that, subject to increases or decreases to respond to growth or improved accuracy in calculating the extraction limit

Permanent trade

Establishing trading zones that largely reflect unregulated river water sources to protect important wetlands

No permanent trade of floodplain harvesting (regulated river) access licences between trading zones

No nomination of works located outside the Gwydir valley floodplain

Granting or amending water supply works approvals

No modification of works located in management zones A or D established under the Floodplain Management Plan for the Gwydir Valley Floodplain 2016

No new works constructed in management zones A or D

No new or modified works outside management zones A or D if the construction or modification would result in an increased rate of take for works located in management zone A or D

Access rules

Water must not be taken from works that are located in the following management zones and are nominated by a floodplain harvesting (regulated river) access licence when active management is being applied:

  • Upper Gingham Watercourse Management Zone
  • Lower Gingham Watercourse Management Zone
  • Mallowa Creek Management Zone

Note: This proposed rule is based on the creation of overbank flow in the above management zones during periods of active management.

Floodplain harvesting (unregulated river) access licences – rule summary

The process for determining entitlements of floodplain harvesting (unregulated river) access licences and unregulated river access licences is the same. Accordingly, it is proposed to apply the same rules to floodplain harvesting (unregulated river) access licences as currently exist for unregulated river access licences in the relevant water source and/or management zone, where appropriate.

Type of ruleProposed rule for floodplain harvesting

Account management

Take limit: 3 ML per unit share over three consecutive years

Account limit: 3 ML per unit share at any time

Available water determination

Initial available water determination of 1 ML per unit share

Available water determination of 1 ML per unit share every year after that, subject to decreases to respond to growth

Permanent trade

Permanent trade of floodplain harvesting (unregulated river) access licences will reflect the existing permanent trade rules that are applied to unregulated river access licences in the Gwydir Unregulated River Water Sources.

No nomination of works located outside the Gwydir valley floodplain

No nomination of new works located in management zones A or D

Granting or amending water supply works approvals

No modification of works located in management zones A or D established under the Floodplain Management Plan for the Gwydir Valley Floodplain 2016.

No new works constructed in management zones A or D

No new or modified works outside management zones A or D if the construction or modification would result in an increased rate of take for works located in management zone A or D

Access rules

Water must not be taken from works that are located in the following management zones and are nominated by a floodplain harvesting (regulated river) access licence when active management is being applied:

  • Upper Gingham Watercourse Management Zone
  • Lower Gingham Watercourse Management Zone
  • Mallowa Creek Management Zone

Note: This proposed rule is based on the creation of overbank flow in the above management zones during periods of active management.

What we heard

The What We Heard report summarises the feedback the NSW Government received during the public consultation sessions and from written submissions for the Gwydir valley.

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.

Download report

The Gwydir Submissions Report (PDF, 1851.97 KB) details the submissions received via the online platform. Please note only submissions where approval was given to publish have been included. Written submissions or attachments with additional information can be found below.