Questions and answers from April's webinar

The following are questions by topic asked from the registration and during the Water Engagement Roundup webinar recorded on 21 April 2021.

Stakeholder engagement

Q. As chair of Murray Water NSW - Customer Advisory Group, we have asked for more involvement with Department of Planning, Industry and Environment on policy and thus directions of future investments. Can we progress requests to meet more regularly on regionally specific issues with the department?

A. Water Group representatives regularly attend WaterNSW Customer Advisory Group (CAG) meetings.

On request, the Water Group can provide subject matter experts to attend a WaterNSW CAG meeting to address regionally specific issues. For example, subject matter experts recently attended to give an update on IPART pricing.

NSW Water Strategy

Q. What are the timeframes for the response on submissions to the State Water Strategy?

A. For the NSW Water Strategy timeline, including consolidation of feedback on the draft strategy and the publishing of the ‘what we heard’ document, please visit: https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/water/plans-programs/strategy/faqs

Greater Sydney Water Strategy

Q. Any idea when the metropolitan water strategies are coming out for consultation?

A. Regional water strategies are being developed in stages. A Greater Sydney Water Strategy will be developed and delivered, replacing the 2017 Metropolitan Water Plan.

The Water Group will provide further advice in response to this question in the Water Engagement Roundup - Questions and Answers, May 2021.

Regional Water Strategies

Q. What are the objectives of the regional water strategies?

A. Regional water strategies will set out a long-term ‘roadmap’ of actions to deliver five objectives:

  • Deliver and manage water for local communities
  • Enable economic prosperity
  • Recognise and protect Aboriginal water rights, interests and access to water
  • Protect and enhance the environment
  • Affordability.

For more information on these objectives, please visit: https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/water/plans-programs/regional-water-strategies/about


Q.  What are the next steps after a Water Strategy is developed? Are actions going to be funded through grant programs?

A. Regional water strategies will set out a long-term ‘roadmap’ of actions for the region over the next 20 years. Some actions may require funding, while others may not.

The department will develop implementation plans for each regional water strategy, including monitoring and evaluation, once the strategies are finalised. The strategies will be implemented by NSW Government in partnership with WaterNSW, local water utilities and water management authorities.

The next steps after a Water Strategy is developed are available at: https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/water/plans-programs/regional-water-strategies/faqs/topics/next-steps


Q. Will the implementation plan be available for public consultation - for both Regional Water and State Water Strategies?

A. The department will develop implementation plans for the NSW Water Plan and regional water strategies in partnership with delivery partners and will publicly report on progress annually. We are not planning to publicly consult on the plans.


Q. What will the Murray Regional Water Strategy involve and what action is planned? Is it about water creation or implementation of the existing Basin Plan process?  My understanding is that it has not been developed or no public consultation.

A. Regional water strategies are long-term strategies that bring together the most up to date information and evidence on climate information and the probability of extreme droughts in the future. They then explore options to mitigate these risks with all the tools we have – policy, planning, behavioural, regulatory, technology and infrastructure – to bring together an integrated package of the actions that we should prioritise over the next 20 years.

The Draft Murray Regional Water Strategy is planned to be released for public exhibition in the second half of 2021.

To date, the Water Group has held initial discussions on the Murray Regional Water Strategy with councils, local water utilities and joint council organisations across the region.

Consultation with local Aboriginal communities is planned to start in May 2021.

The Regional Water Strategies development and engagement processes are available at:


Q. Regarding the Murray Regional Water Strategy, are you consulting on plans after they are done, or working with local people on their initial development?

A. The regional water strategies engagement program comprises four phases aligned with the preparation and implementation approach for each of the strategies.

  1. Pre-release: We are having initial discussions with councils, local water utilities, joint organisations and local Aboriginal communities across the region. Our focus is to understand the regional challenges and future water needs, and discuss potential options.
  2. Public exhibition: We will be consulting with the broader community on the draft regional water strategy. The six-week public exhibition period will include multiple avenues to access information and provide feedback.
  3. Targeted engagement: Following public exhibition, we will undertake further targeted engagement with Aboriginal peak bodies, councils, local water utilities and joint organisations and Aboriginal communities. Our focus will be to refine the options.
  4. Public release of the final regional water strategy: This will focus on informing the broader community of the published strategy.

Feedback from the department’s engagement on water sharing plans, water resource plans, metering reforms, environmental water management and drought are also being considered. Through those processes, we have heard many ideas about how to be better prepared for future droughts and floods and a more variable climate.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Water markets

Q. ACCC Water Markets inquiry and report.

A. For information on the ACCC Water markets, please visit: https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/water/licensing-trade/trade/accc-murraydarling-basin-water-markets-inquiry

Flood mitigation

Q. Negative impacts of flood mitigation.

A. Floodplain management plans provide the framework for coordinating the development of flood works on a whole-of-valley basis and have been prepared for rural floodplains in the northern Basin.

For information on the Floodplain management plan program, visit: https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/water/plans-programs/healthy-floodplains-project/plans

Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) projects

Q. Are you able to provide an update on SDLAM projects in NSW?

A. For information on each of the NSW Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism projects, and frequently asked questions, visit: https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/water/plans-programs/sdlam

Register for updates on SDLAM projects.


Q. We have asked for a NSW state review for southern basin SDLAM projects, ie we have repeatedly requested a meeting to have a review to incorporate new information, ideas, etc our community is concerned that SDL projects are proceeding without community support and there may be really positive amendments but the system is not allowing.

A. Stakeholder engagement and community acceptance remains a key part of the NSW Government’s plans to deliver sensible projects that realise the full range of objectives of the Murray Darling Basin Plan. We will continue to consult with relevant Stakeholder Advisory Groups and Technical Advisory Groups and the broader community across all SDLAM projects. Stakeholders can also receive information on the SDLAM projects by subscribing to receive regular SDLAM email updates. Subscribe for email updates.


Q. Sustainable Diversion Adjustment Project including Constraints Management Strategy.

A. SDLAM can be achieved through supply, including constraints, or efficiency measures. For more information about the Constraints Management Strategy, visit the Murray-Darling Basin Authority: https://www.mdba.gov.au/basin-plan-roll-out/managing-constraints


Q. Where can we find details of the input and discussion points from the stakeholder advisory group for the three meetings that have already occurred?

A. The membership for the Menindee Lakes Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) is publicly available on the department’s website:

https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/squiz-sandbox/sdlam/menindee-lakes-project

Should you require clarity on the topics discussed at the Menindee Lakes SAG meetings, the department can assist in contacting Chairman, Mr Terry Smith on your behalf or alternatively can provide Mr Smith with your contact details.

Groundwater

Q. I attended an engagement towards the end of last year regarding managing ground water, when will we know the outcomes of these meetings?

A. The Water Group has prepared documentation for public distribution and for our website regarding the proposed outcomes. These are planned to be released in late May 2021.

We will also email everyone who attended the meeting to advise of the outcomes.

Connectivity – northern and southern basin

Q. Is there any review on connectivity to Menindee, Lower Darling and Murray from Northern Basin Water Sharing plans, both surface and floodplain harvesting, ie will there be amendments to ensure meaningful flows past Wilcannia.

A. Connectivity is a key consideration in NSW Government programs, including the development of the Regional Water Strategies, implementation of recommendations from the independent review of the First Flush review, and implementation of the North West Plan.

The North West Plan work includes a review of the current flow targets based on the knowledge we have accumulated over the last 10+ years. The Department has also committed to implementing active management of floodplain harvesting when overland flows are entirely comprised of held environmental water.

Any changes as a result of this work and further responses to the 2019 Natural Resources Commission review of the 'Water Sharing Plan for the Barwon-Darling Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2012', will be reflected in the water sharing plan.

The department has also already implemented a number of reforms to support flows in the Barwon-Darling including the resumption of flows rule, individual daily extraction components, and active management of environmental water.

Harvestable Rights

Q. The relationship between the harvestable rights review and north coast water strategy.

A. The North Coast Regional Water Strategy aims to support the delivery of healthy, reliable and resilient water resources for a liveable and prosperous North Coast region. It includes a long list of potential options that complement state-wide reforms, including the review of the harvestable rights for all coastal draining catchments.

The Coastal Harvestable Rights Review is currently underway and is considering the effects of increased harvestable rights and of allowing dams to be built on larger tributaries within NSW catchments that drain to the coast.

Stakeholder engagement on coastal harvestable rights will help inform the North Coast Regional Water Strategy so we can deliver better outcomes for the region and be better prepared for future droughts and floods, and a more variable climate.


Q. I would like to know if there are any changes to be made in the near future as to harvest rights in the area of Condobolin as it is imperative that we do something about it as the farmers here desperate to save more onsite water on their farms it needs to be erased to 40% in our area this will stop wash aways of roads and erosion.

A. The department’s Water Group is in further contact with the stakeholder to clarify this question. We will publish the response in the Water Engagement Roundup - Questions and Answers, May 2021.

Desalination

Q.  Have you considered large scale sea water desalination for Tamworth?

A. The draft Namoi Regional Water Strategy is currently on public exhibition until Sunday, 16 May 2021.

It includes a long list of options that could be included in the final Namoi Regional Water Strategy. To identify these options, we have drawn ideas from previous studies, experience with the Millennium Drought, community and local council consultation, and government reforms and programs.

One of the options identified in the draft strategy is to investigate groundwater desalination for industry.

For more information on the strategy, or to make an online submission, please click on the 'Have your say' button on our website:

https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/water/plans-programs/regional-water-strategies/public-exhibition/namoi

NSW Water Allocations

Q. I've tried several times to register for Murrumbidgee Inter Valley Trade (IVT) updates but I don't receive the notifications. Any advice?

A. The Murrumbidgee Inter Valley Trade is operated by WaterNSW. Please visit: https://www.waternsw.com.au/customer-service/ordering-trading-and-pricing/trading/murrumbidgee

There is a ‘subscribe’ button available. If still unsuccessful, please contact WaterNSW for assistance.

Warragamba Dam

Q. Who is in charge of the Warragamba Dam wall being raised? Where are the engagement notifications for this?

A. The NSW Government is delivering the Resilient Valley, Resilient Communities – Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley Flood Risk Management Strategy (Flood Strategy) to reduce and manage the risk of flooding in the region – now and into the future.

NSW Government is delivering the first phase of the Flood Strategy program, together with local councils, businesses and the community. The first phase involves a range of projects to meet the Flood Strategy’s nine outcomes. For information on the lead government agencies for each outcome, please visit: http://www.infrastructure.nsw.gov.au/expert-advice/hawkesbury-nepean-flood-risk-management-strategy/

WaterNSW, as owner and operator of the Warragamba Dam, is consulting widely about the effects and benefits of the Warragamba Dam Raising Proposal. For more information and community updates, or to contact the Warragamba Dam Raising team, please visit: https://www.waternsw.com.au/projects/greater-sydney/warragamba-dam-raising

Sustainability

Q. How long must we wait until this government chooses sustainability of water resources over short term upstream profit?

A. The NSW Government is committed to managing water resources in a way that protects the environment and the communities and industries that depend on secure water access.

We are preparing new regional water strategies, in partnership with water service providers, local councils, communities, Aboriginal people and other stakeholders across NSW, that will bring together the best and latest climate evidence with a wide range of tools and solutions to plan and manage the water needs in each NSW region over the next 20-40 years.

More information on how we manage NSW surface and groundwater resources, is available at: https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/water


Q. I am in Morocco and I am interested in the environment of Australia and its nature!

A.  The NSW Government is currently developing a 20 year NSW Water Strategy, which includes a focus on the long term, sustainable management of the state’s water resources.

You can find more detail on the draft NSW Water Strategy on our website:

https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/water/plans-programs/strategy

Forestry management

Q. Yes: water grid viaducts protecting national parks, forestry, all shires,net zero fires, collect dry fuel for mulch, propagate millions of deciduous trees to protect National Estate and save young fathers from bush fire arsonists. Families need fathers. Too many have perished because of pyromaniac culture such as allowing fire to reach out of control status to attract higher wages.

A. For information about forest management, please visit the NSW Department of Primary Industries website at: https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/forestry/managing-forests

The NSW Government has commissioned an independent expert inquiry into the 2019-20 bushfire season to provide input to NSW ahead of the next bushfire season. Details on this inquiry and the final report can be found at: https://www.nsw.gov.au/nsw-government/projects-and-initiatives/nsw-bushfire-inquiry