Questions and answers from June's webinar

The following are questions by topic asked from the registration and during the Water Engagement Roundup webinar recorded on 16 June 2021.

Stakeholder engagement – Temporary water restriction announcements

Q.  How can we improve notification for temporary water restrictions?

A. The current process for making changes to water restrictions is by order under the Water Management Act 2000 published in the NSW Government Gazette. Notifications are published to the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment website immediately after the order is gazetted and includes links to the gazetted order.

Media releases are issued to all relevant media outlets covering the geographical area impacted.

The department publishes notifications on Twitter with links to information on the website.

WaterNSW will issue notifications to affected water users, usually in the form of a ‘customer service notice' letter.

Timely notification can be difficult given that regional newspapers are often not published frequently enough for media releases and advertising to be immediately distributed.

The most efficient way to stay up to date with temporary water restrictions is to follow the department on Twitter. This will ensure access to all water restriction notifications as soon as they are implemented. The Twitter account is @NSWDPIE_Water.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Murray-Darling Basin water markets inquiry

Q. Update on the implementation of the ACCC recommendations.

A. The NSW Government is considering its response to the ACCC enquiry on water trading. How is the NSW government response being informed by all the other water strategies it is trying to put into place? In particular, the Licencing of Floodplain harvesting seems to have come after the ACCC report so does not seem to be included in the responses being considered by the team developing the NSW response to the ACCC inquiry.

In considering how the NSW Government will respond to the ACCC recommendations, we are consulting broadly to ensure any response is informed by other government strategies and aligns with other policy priorities where relevant.

This includes the NSW Water Strategy, Regional Water Strategies as well as others.

The licensing of floodplain harvesting is discussed in Chapter 15 of the ACCC Final Report, and Recommendation 17 relates to strengthening metering and monitoring, which includes improving the monitoring of floodplain harvesting so that these forms of take can be brought into the licensing framework.

In considering how to respond to this particular recommendation, we will be informed by the work currently underway in NSW to reform floodplain harvesting.

The Commonwealth Government recently announced the establishment of an independent expert panel which will be responsible for developing a roadmap to support the implementation of the ACCC recommendations.

We are currently waiting for the Commonwealth to confirm the terms of reference and membership of the Panel, but rather than independently develop a NSW Government response as we originally proposed, our intention is to work with other Basin governments and the independent panel to develop a joint response.

We consider this to be more appropriate given that the majority of the recommendations will require collaboration between Basin governments.

Coastal Harvestable Rights

Q. Update on coastal harvestable rights.

A.

  • Public consultation and targeted Aboriginal consultation has now closed.
  • There was strong interest in the review from a wide range of stakeholders during consultation.
  • The department received a wealth of information through 51 written submissions, 136 survey responses and over 30 face-to-face and virtual discussions.
  • We are in the process of analysing the submissions, survey responses and consultation discussions and will report back to stakeholders with a “What we heard” report.
  • The department will develop recommendations to the Minister for Water, Housing and Property on whether to increase harvestable rights, or if further studies are required, drawing on the valuable input and information provided by stakeholders.

The review team would like to thank everyone involved for their input so far and would like to invite anyone who is not already on our mailing list to join by emailing harvestablerights.review@dpie.nsw.gov.au

Hunter region

Q. What are the current and forthcoming projects happening around Hunter region?

A. The NSW Government is planning to release the draft Lower Hunter Water Security Plan for public exhibition later this year. 2021. The draft Plan is a whole-of-government approach to ensure we have a sustainable and resilient water supply for the Lower Hunter, both now and for future generations.

https://www.hunterwater.com.au/our-water/water-supply/water-in-the-lower-hunter/planning-for-the-future

The water sharing plan for the Hunter unregulated and alluvial water sources 2009 is also being reviewed and replaced. Consultation is currently occurring, and public exhibition of the plan will occur this calendar year. The replacement plan is due to commence on 1 July 2022.

The Lostock Dam to Glennies Creek Dam pipeline project recently secured Commonwealth and NSW Government funding to develop a Final Business Case. The Greater Hunter Regional Water Strategy and 2018 State Infrastructure Strategy recommended further investigation into this pipeline as a critical project to support the State’s longer-term water security. Community consultation on this project will commence in the second half of 2021.

Water sharing plans

Q. What's the process for a LWU (local water utility) for increasing town water entitlements (due to residential growth) and what are the impacts to other users under a sharing plan?

A. If a local water utility requires an increase in town water entitlements, they would need to apply to the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR).

NRAR will require evidence from the LWU and the department that the increased allocation is required to provide water to the community, and if so, a new specific purpose access licence would be allocated to the utility.

The impact of doing this in a water sharing plan would depend on where the water is being supplied. If the  volume of water taken from the water source where new entitlement is located already has extraction over the long term average annual extraction limit, this would result in reduced allocations for other commercial users.

If extraction is at or below the extraction limit, the LWU could take more without impacting other users.

Town water supply has a higher priority than commercial water users.

A fact sheet is available on access to water for local water utilities.

All general water access licence information is also available on the department's website.


Q. Could you provide Long Term Average Annual Extraction Limits and how they apply to users, and how they are managed by the department?

A. Extraction limits are set in the water sharing plans and are long term averages. The volume extracted each year will vary depending on the climate and demand for water.

Therefore, the long-term average will be a single value but will represent the average over a period of time. Compliance with the extraction limit is assessed using the extraction information over the previous three to five years, pending the rules in the specific water sharing plan.

Where information is available on usage in a water source the extraction is managed to the limits set out in the water sharing plans, to ensure water remains available to the environment and other users.


Q. What's the process to apply for return credits when returning water back into the system?

A. When water is put back into the system, it becomes the state's water again and can be extracted again under a different licence or the same licence.

Currently, credits are not provided for returned water.

A return flows policy is being investigated by NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment–Water.


Q. Do trading plans work in water sharing plans?

A. Water sharing plans set the rules for where water can be traded to and from.

Ability to trade is based on ecological factors within each catchment and impacts on existing water users.

When assessing potential trade, the department will aim to minimise impacts to high value ecological systems and existing users.