Questions and answers from September's webinar

The following are questions by topic asked from the registration and during the Water Engagement Roundup webinar recorded on 15 September 2021.

Stakeholder engagement

Q. There needs to be an opportunity for people to access departmental staff at regional offices where COVID permitting, face to face conversations can take place to assist in the understanding of all the compliance obligations.

A. Department of Planning Industry and Environment‒Water is committed to meaningful stakeholder engagement and has commenced conversations across regional water strategy areas to understand how we may better communicate and engage across regions. For more on the regional water strategies and engagement to draft strategies, please visit www.dpie.nsw.gov.au/regional-water-strategies.

As soon as it is safe to do so, we look forward to recommencing face-to-face engagement. Please keep up to date with upcoming engagements by visiting Stakeholder engagement - Water in New South Wales (nsw.gov.au).


Q. How many people do you get to these webinars? How many online now?

A. 66 people attended this month's webinar (September 2021). Since the webinars commenced in April 2021 an average of 50 people have attended each month.

You may listen to past webinars or register for future webinars by visiting Water engagement roundup - Water in New South Wales (nsw.gov.au)

Basic Landholder Rights

Q. How are people going to be engaged to inform them of their new obligations?

A. An animated video on basic landholder rights is currently being prepared by the department and is due for completion within the next few weeks.

All animated videos are available at Department of Planning, Industry and Environment - YouTube™.

Metering

Q. Can you please provide clarity on Licence Holders responsibility for User Pays metering equipment

A. Water meters are the responsibility of the water user to purchase, install and maintain as a condition of their water supply works approval or water access licence: NSW non-urban water metering framework - Metering in New South Wales

There are a range of programs that farmers can access to offset the financial impact of purchasing metering equipment:

  • The NSW and Australian Government have committed $18 million for a telemetry rebate program for water users who install compliant telemetry equipment. Under the program, eligible water users will automatically receive a $975 credit on their water bill when their meter is connected to the NSW Government's telemetry system.
  • Under the Australian Government’s instant asset write off scheme, farmers can deduct the full purchase price of assets up to $150,000 – such as metering equipment – from their taxable income.
  • The NSW Farm Innovation Fund provides loans to meet the costs of carrying out capital works, including metering, that benefit the long-term profitability of businesses.

Details on funding for metering programs and rebates:


Q. IPART stated there was no cost benefit of telemetry until 80% of sites have telemetry is this correct also when will the DAS (Data Acquisition Service) be operating

A. Automating the recording and reporting of water use information will achieve efficiencies for water users, who will avoid the need to manually record and report their water take. As set out in the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s (IPART) determination, as more water users install telemetry, charges will decrease. See IPART report : Final report - Review of prices for the Water Administration Ministerial Corporation - September 2021 | IPART (nsw.gov.au)

There are a range of programs that farmers can access to offset the financial impact of purchasing metering equipment. See the Metering and telemetry funding fact sheet.

  • The NSW and Australian Government have committed $18 million for a telemetry rebate program for water users who install compliant telemetry equipment. Under the program, eligible water users will automatically receive a $975 credit on their water bill when their meter is connected to the NSW Government's telemetry system.
  • Under the Australian Government’s instant asset write off scheme, farmers can deduct the full purchase price of assets up to $150,000 – such as metering equipment – from their taxable income.
  • The NSW Farm Innovation Fund provides loans to meet the costs of carrying out capital works, including metering, that benefit the long-term profitability of businesses.

In terms of the Data Acquisition Service (DAS), this system is now operational. Data collected by the DAS will assist the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR), WaterNSW and the department to undertake compliance and enforcement, billing, and other water management activities. Water users will also be able to access their information via a private online dashboard. For the latest updates on DAS please visit Telemetry to support NSW Non-Urban Water Metering Framework - Water in New South Wales


Q. Can you please confirm if you need a meter on a bore, regardless of the size? I have been advised that it does not matter what the size of the bore is, is that correct?

Under the Non-urban metering policy, there are three risk-based triggers that set out the need to meter a bore that takes licensed water:

  1. The bore exceeds the infrastructure size threshold (see Table 1, p 2 of the policy, replicated below).
  2. The bore is already required to have a meter.
  3. The bore takes water from one of the 32 ‘at-risk’ groundwater sources set out in Attachment B of the Non-Urban Metering Policy.
Table 1. Infrastructure size thresholds for metering bores
Number of bores on a works approval, property or licence Threshold for metering all bores
One bore The bore is 200mm in diameter* or greater
Two bores At least one bore is 160mm in diameter or greater
Three bores At least one bore is 130mm in diameter or greater
Four bores At least one bore is 120mm in diameter or greater
Five or more bores All bores need to be metered

* Diameter refers to the external diameter of the bore casing


Q. I cannot see on the weblink shared information about who is eligible for the telemetry rebate. Is there another link that has more detail?

A. The NSW and Australian Government have committed $18 million for a telemetry rebate program for water users who install compliant telemetry equipment.

Under the program, eligible water users will automatically receive a $975 credit on their water bill when their meter is connected to the NSW Government's telemetry system

The rebate scheme will be up and running in 2021-22 and rebates will be backdated to include water users who have already connected.

For more information about the telemetry rebate go to: Funding announcement - Water in New South Wales (nsw.gov.au)

Further information on Telemetry rebate on WaterNSW website.


Q. The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) indicated in their recent metering compliance report that they could not contact 30% of water users - what is the Dept doing about contacting water user and their obligations? Do you track how many returned letters you get from the 10,000 you have sent?

A. Water users should ensure that their contact details are up to date. Water users can update their details free of charge, online at www.waternsw.com.au/updatedetails or via telephone 1300 662 077.

Since the new metering rules became law in December 2018, the department, the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) and WaterNSW have made a concerted effort to ensure these water users are aware of the metering rules and understand what they need to do to comply.

This includes:

  • undertaking direct mail outs, emails and outbound phone calls to thousands of affected waters
  • undertaking metering and measurement roadshows and field days
  • releasing an online metering guidance tool and a range of fact sheets
  • advertising in social, print and broadcast media

For a detailed breakdown of engagement activity see community consultation - NSW Water Reform Action Plan


Q. Why is Irrigation Australia the only organisation that can provide training and certification of DQPs (Duly Qualified Persons)?

A. Irrigation Australia is currently the only registered training organisation for the certified meter installer course and certificate three in irrigation technology. Irrigation Australia is an Australia-wide, non-profit  organisation recognised by all Murray-Darling Basin states. Services provided include trainer, certifier, and overseer of meter installers.

If another training organisation were to come into play, the government would consider recognising that training organisation as well.


Q. Who is responsible for maintaining and repairing metering equipment and with what frequency will checks be made on the veracity of the data transmitted?

A. The Maintenance Specifications 2019 set out the maintenance requirements for meters in NSW.

Currently, every five years a duly qualified person is required to maintain the meter while a water user may complete minor maintenance.


Q. Regarding Non-urban water metering. If local water utilities already have flow meters and telemetry installed is there an opportunity to piggyback off the existing systems, [rather than] spending rate payer money to install a 2nd telemetry system?

A. There is a pathway for providers of existing telemetry systems to have them recognised as compliant with the NSW Government's telemetry system if they can demonstrate they achieve equivalent outcomes. This is described in Part 3 of the Government’s Market Engagement Policy for metering and telemetry.


Q. The department has known there are telemetry/connectivity black spots since before the reform was decided - are these users just to be on NRAR warning list as non-compliant because you cannot solve this problem that you created.

A. The NSW Government’s telemetry system uses Telstra’s secure ‘Narrow Band Internet of Things’ (NB-IOT) network

The NB-IOT network is designed to minimise power consumption and maximise coverage and is well suited to water metering in remote locations.

The department is working with WaterNSW to identify a suitable provider of satellite telemetry services for water users who are not serviced by the Telstra NB-IOT network.


Q. How is a solution to no connectivity at metering sites going, star link or satellite.

A. The department is working with WaterNSW to identify a suitable provider of satellite telemetry services for water users who are not serviced by the Telstra NB-IOT network.

Floodplain harvesting

Q. I question the impact [of] floodplain harvesting, has the department's work been peer reviewed?

A. The models the department used for these assessments have been independently peer reviewed. These reports together with the peer review reports are available on the department's website: Independent peer reviews of the Policy and independent modelling reports - Water in New South Wales (nsw.gov.au)


Q. The public has no confidence in the preserved in-house peer review, has the department any plans to qualify this information?

A.  The reviewers engaged to undertake the peer reviews are independent and well qualified – we have published information about the reviewers on the department’s website: Independent peer reviewers - Water in New South Wales (nsw.gov.au)

Despite this, we are aware that some stakeholders remain concerned about the validity of our models.

To improve stakeholder trust and confidence, we will be subjecting the revised Namoi Valley model to an expanded review process involving stakeholders and an additional independent peer reviewer. As each of the models adopts the same data sources and process, we expect that this review process will also help build stakeholder trust and confidence in our revised models.

SDLAM (Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism) projects

Q. Is there any information on the re-scoping (SDLAM - Menindee and Yanco) that Minister Pavey announced at the last MINCo (Ministerial Council) - 29 April, with a two-month deadline, however the public have received NO information or updates on what re-scoping means?

A. Restrictions around COVID-19 have impacted our ability to progress the project rescoping at Menindee and in the Yanco system. Department staff have had stay-at-home orders across all our offices as well as additional restrictions preventing on-site work or engagement activities.  We appreciate this can be frustrating but seek the community’s understanding as we abide by public health orders and take all measures available to keep our people and communities safe.

As per Minister Pavey’s comments earlier this year, there are no plans to proceed with the projects in any of the forms previously envisaged.  Instead, we are focused on partnering with the community to investigate holistic initiatives that can improve river health and deliver better outcomes for regions and the environment.  We acknowledge this will involve the investigation of a range of options that include new and improved infrastructure alongside policy and operational solutions. The team has some very preliminary thoughts on options and plans to start the conversation with the community as soon as possible.

We are optimistic that COVID restrictions will lift shortly, and we will be in a position to start working with the communities soon.

We are committed to comprehensive engagement, and we know that local input and support is vital to the success of any project in the Murray-Darling Basin.

For more information, please contact 1300 081 047.

NSW Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism projects - Water in New South Wales

State Water Strategy

Q.  Just wondering if there is an anticipated time frame for release of the State Water Strategy?

A. The NSW Water Strategy was released on 16 September 2021. Please visit NSW Water Strategy | Water for more information.

Allocations

Q. In the eastern Macquarie Marshes, there is very little water and definitely no water dependent ecosystem recovery i.e., bird breeding, Burrendong dam is over 100% is this compliant with the principles S 5(3) and S (9) 1 of the WMA (Water Management Act).

A. Currently 20,000-25,000 hectares of the Macquarie Marshes are inundated. This equates to roughly a 60th percentile Marshes inflow event, delivering far less than the 150,000 hectares inundation that the large 2016 flood brought.

Inundation of the northern and southern parts of the Marshes has been prioritised in recent months, based on known environmental demands. Flows into the eastern parts of the Marshes have commenced and the duration will depend on how conditions play out from here on. Flows into the eastern parts will likely continue until at least the end of this month.