New regulations bring all NSW water management into one law

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New regulations bring all NSW water management into one law

Water users, their communities, and environments right around the Murray-Darling Basin had their calls to the NSW Government for better management of water, answered as the NSW Government made regulations to enable the management, measurement, and accounting of the final source of water in NSW which is taken off the floodplains.

Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association, Executive Officer Zara Lowien explains the move provides the legislative process to incorporate floodplain harvesting take into existing water sharing plans in the region.

“These three regulations outline the mechanics to enable the calculation, issuing and enforcement of limits in our local water plans through mandatory metering of floodplain take[1], which has not existed previously” she said

“They mean NSW Government can now manage all forms of water take, right across NSW consistently” she said.

“That’s a good thing for water users who want to remain sustainable, but also for communities and the environment, who need confidence they’re getting their fair share of floodplain flows” she said

Mrs Lowien said “NSW parliamentary and public debate on the matter late last year highlighted there’s broad commitment to volumetric licencing[2], rather than temporary exemptions, with stakeholder uniting in demanding greater accountability and transparency with metering and reporting”.

“These regulations answer the majority of concerns raised”.

“They enable the process to deliver exactly what communities and stakeholders everywhere have been demanding”.

“A move away from these regulations, is a move away from better accountability, transparency and limits of take” she said.

“Not allowing these regulations, doesn’t mean floodplain harvesting goes away”.

“It just means it remains unmeasured, unaccounted towards legal limits and opaque, which isn't in anyone's interests, no matter where you are located in the Basin" she said.

“To reject these regulations and hold to ransom these stepped improvements in water management in a bid to circumvent proper process and fast-track the development of new rules above those existing or which have been proposed, seems counterintuitive” she said.

"We loose any improvements in water management that these regulations propose" she said. 

“Rome wasn’t built in a day and the mechanics enabled by these regulations are not the final brick, they lay the foundations for better water management” she said.

“Following widespread, above average rainfall drought conditions are behind us and the flood peak from when our rivers, creeks and floodplains were full and overflowing, now travelling past Bourke. We have Menindee Lakes already has 573,000ML of storage[3] and the flood peak is due to arrive in a couple of weeks, with WaterNSW predicting up to 950,000 megalitres[4] of inflows” she said.

“With these conditions and good water supplies for critical needs, water users and environmental needs, nature has delivered us a unique opportunity to gather all the bricks we need to build the right sharing framework” she said

“We need to use this time to review existing rules, utilise floodplain metering data and properly plan and consult on improved rules, rather than forcing through untested or interim thought bubbles” she said.

“All stakeholders support the implementation of improved rules-based safeguards for times of drought and the recent drought taught us the importance of better preparation” said Mrs Lowien.

“The experiences of many during the Northern Basin First Flush in February 2020, means communities deserve better and that the NSW Government must do the right due diligence and bring communities along in this process” she said.

“We are calling on parliament to respect those processes”.

“We’re asking them to enable these first steps for better management by supporting the regulations”.

“We fully support calling NSW Government to account and implement a clear process to develop, robust, transparent and community engaged drought management water sharing rules as a separate priority”

“This is very important but separate process that will beenfit from the implementation of these regulations but many are conflating it" she said.  

“Its now up to the NSW Parliament to secure that separate process, in the interest of communities everywhere in NSW” she said.


Media Contact: Zara Lowien


Fast Facts about Floodplain Harvesting or visit our Floodplain Flows and Licensing Webpage:

  • Floodplain take occurs when our rivers, creeks and/or floodplains are full and flowing over i.e. they are in flood. As the name suggests, a flood event of some scale must occur to take water as a floodplain harvester.
  • Licencing floodplain take:
  • Is not new water it is merely representing this historical form of take within the current legislative framework, consistent with all other forms of water.
  • Is not a windfall or gift for the industry, as there will be a reduction water take which will have a direct flow on to the community with an estimated on average loss of $92M[5] of economic activity transferred to environmental benefits within our valley alone.
  • Will provide tools to better measure and monitor take to ensure overall usage remains within limits, as set out in water sharing plans and the Basin Plan including managing future growth.
  • Will protect the environment and users fair share of floodplain flows, providing flow on benefits to assets and other communities where there is connectivity of water sources.
  • These regulations provide the legislative mechanics to enable licencing and improved management options for government, they do not stipulate the volumes and or the rules of access, which are determined through separate process called water sharing planning.

[1] Refer to Fast Facts about Floodplain Harvesting for a description of this form of water take.

[2] See submission by GVIA to NSW Government on draft WSP rules in Gwydir Valley – Attachment A via

[3] Via WaterInsights

[4] WaterNSW Northern NSW Rainfall Event March 2021 date 23 April 2021

[5] Calculated from the average volume being reduced by the opportunity cost to the community per foregone ML which is $1742/ML ($800/ML farm gate times 2.178 ABS community multiplier).

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