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Fast Facts |

Understanding the changes to the NSW Metering Rules for non-urban water users can be a challenge and often the information is spread across a number of Department and industry sources.  We have found, the most central point to visit is WaterNSW Metering page

It has the three steps you should take and all the links to the forms, the rules and the Departments Metering Guidance tool which we encourage you to use. But importantly, its WaterNSW who manage the implementation and integration of the new rules on the ground, they collect information from your Duly Qualified Persons and they administer the licensing database if you determine you need to make amendments.  In most cases it is WaterNSW you will need to speak with about metering as they are the customer liaison group, plus they have a customer hotline 1300 662 077. 

It is this website that features heavily in our video series on metering.

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The NSW Water Minister today announced the NSW Government will exempt up to 500 small water users who take water under a domestic and stock water access licence from non-urban metering rules, fixing an inconsistency in the NSW Government’s metering policy .  The announcement details are accessed below. 

Zara Lowien from the GVIA said while welcomed for some water users, the decision to not extend this exemption to groundwater sources such as the Lower Gwydir and the NSW Great Artesian Basin, will mean the majority of the region's stock and domestic groundwater works are still required to be metered in the Gwydir Valley.  This means many lifestyle blocks on the outskirts of towns like Moree and dryland farms still need a water meter by 1 December 2021.  This is over-reach by the metering reforms which should focus on water being actively used for irrigation and as such, the exemptions should be extended to these other water sources.

We are also calling on the NSW Government to prioritise solutions for land owners who hold a water access licenses but are not active irrigators before the deadline of 1 December 2021.  Again a large number of lifestyle blocks have small licenses that are inactive for irrigation but that may be used for stock and domestic or basic landholder rights, who without intervention are required to have a meter by December 2021.  

To assess if you need a meter, see our video series via

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The NSW Select Committee Inquiry into floodplain harvesting has had an explosive start to public hearings this week with hearings due to wrap up on Friday, 24th September with the NSW Water Minister.

Zara Lowien, from the Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association said the next few days will be interesting as mainly stakeholders who are vocal against the licencing proposal and irrigation in the northern valleys, present their cases.

 “Since the drought we’ve seen floodplain harvesting which is water taken during a flood when rivers and streams are full and spilling onto the floodplains, being criticised as the cause of all the problems with water management and the environment during the drought”.

 “Everyone agrees current conditions are good – our rivers are flowing freely, with many storages including the Menindee Lakes full, which is in stark contrast to the recent drought, when our rivers stopped flowing.”

“With many these mistruths blown out of the water and some stakeholders refusing to accept the real facts.  Those destined to undermine this process have fallen back on highly nuanced and often contradictory arguments on what is the long-term legal limit and disputes on modelling results”.

“The analysis being used to support the claim that NSW is trying to update Cap without due process during this inquiry is not correct, nor is the claim that Cap is being increased.”

“The analysis used to make the claims, isn’t even comparing apples with apples” said Mrs Lowien.

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Food and fibre production in the northern Murray Darling Basin is worth more than $6 billion a year, according to a report by leading Australian economic analysis company Macroplan. The report, commissioned by the Northern Valley Irrigators groups of which the Gwydir Valley contributed, sets out the value and flow-on benefits of investment in irrigated agriculture in the northern Basin.

“The report shows the economic and social value of irrigated and other agriculture in in the northern Basin,” explained Michael Drum, Executive Officer of Macquarie River Food and Fibre.

“Regional communities dominated by agriculture are circular economies, each sector relies on the other to be successful. Much of the irrigated product both primary and secondary uses, goes to feeding a highly valuable livestock industry as well the food we eat and the clothes we wear”.

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Here is our third video in a NSW Metering Rules series - this is for active users, who want to work out if they need a meter and what type of meter, but also who they contact.
This video goes through some examples, for groundwater users and surface water users using the NSW Government Metering Guidance Tool.
It also then shows you how to find an approved expert to help provide you more specific advice, on what meter you may need and to install a new one or check the one you have via the Irrigation Australia database of Certified Meter Installers.
This video is available

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Here is our second video in our NSW Metering Rules series - this is designed to help you make the administrative updates to your work approval.
1. For users who are not active users for irrigation or do not have infrastructure, we cover the steps to mark your site inactive.
2. For users who want to just pump stock and domestic or basic landholder rights water, we explain how you can remove your WAL and change the purpose of your work or just keep the works as they are but check if you need to install a meter.
3. For users who are active and there are differences between your on-farm infrastructure and the work approval, how to amend these.
You must not delay with undertaking these steps, there are price increases from 1 October 2021 for these applications. 
This video is available via vimeo

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Within the IPART pricing review details revealed the metering reform policy established by the NSW Government in 2019, is not meeting its promised objectives.

“We’ve been watching the train-wreck that is the implementation and administration of the NSW metering policy and working on solutions, to iron out barriers to compliance[1]” said Mrs Lowien.

“Detail in the attachments of the IPART review has highlighted the policy is also failing to meet expected efficiency or cost savings too” she said.

“IPART has had to blend metering administration charges because it was going to be more expensive for customers to have telemetry ".

“The Government telemetry system is a complete farce, it’s not integrated properly within Government systems, water users cannot connect or utilise the data easily and now, IPART have also exposed there’s no financial savings or benefits either” she said.

 [1] Document in the comprehensive barriers to compliance document by NSWIC

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The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) NSW handed down their new pricing structure for water charges in NSW to start from 1 October 2021 with no good news for farmers, struggling to recovery from the drought and the reform costs for metering already.

“The details within the determination confirms that Gwydir water users will see significant pricing change increases across the valley for the next four years.”

“The only water user to see a reduction in overall charges are inland groundwater users, largely due to cost shifting between agencies.”

“High security and unregulated users are the hardest hit with 46% and 66% increase in some charges respectively.  General security and supplementary users are not free from increases, usage charges for them increase 34%[1]” she said.

“There are also significant increases in administration charges through WaterNSW which the GVIA warn anyone with a water approval to be aware of the increase” said Mrs Lowien.

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The recent resource assessment has increased general security allocation to 69.3% for the Gwydir Valley.  Copeton Dam is at 82% capacity and rising. 
A stark contrast to this time last year, when Copeton Dam was at 16% capacity. 
Total water available for general security irrgators in Copeton is 496,000ML with  213,000ML for held environmental water accounts, including the ECA.  This water is in the bank, so to speak and can be carried over if it is not needed this year.   All high security and other essential supplies are 100% and fully secured for two years.

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In a scathing investigative report released today [HERE], NSW Irrigators’ Council found the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment-Water (DPIE-Water) and WaterNSW had failed to execute their administrative and technical responsibilities effectively.
“The industry supports this reform, which requires water users to upgrade their meters to a new, world-leading standard,” NSWIC CEO Claire Miller said.
“But irrigators are fed up with being blamed for non-compliance by deadlines while DPIE-Water and WaterNSW get away with glossing over the scale and impact of their poor planning.

GVIA helped inform the report and has been advocating to various Department's now for years, to address these barriers.

Executive Officer Zara Lowien said "We've been collating and communicating these issues directly to government for years, trying to work constructively, encourage action and implement the reform".

"But now,  water users are receiving NRAR advisory letters becuase the government has failed to provide them an approved device to install".

"Its not good enough to tell us the market will respond or don't worry,  just "evidence" your effort."

"Water users are sick and tired of providing "evidence" on multiple occasions, to multiple NRAR employees that don't even seem to speak to each other or keep this "evidence".  

"Water users just actually want to be compliant but the government agencies are letting them down".

"Enough is enough, its time they step up if they want this reform to work" she said.

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The NSW metering rules apply to all works and compliance will be assessed against your work approval - not what is in the ground and whether you use it or not.  If you do not actively use these works or do not have any infrastructure installed, you are not required to have a meter.
Before a work will be tagged as inactive, YOU MUST demonstrate the work is not physically capable of taking water and REGISTER your work as inactive.  This is done through WaterNSW.
Registering your work inactive will ensure you avoid being non-compliant to these rules by the relevant due date; either 1 December 2020 for larger than 500mm sites or 1 December 2021 for all other sites.   This applies to both surface and groundwater works. 
The form required is vailable here

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The realities of metering statistics are very different to the story being communicated by NRAR.  

Valley based tracking of progress is available via NRAR and is presented on our new page below.  Here we also capture the key barriers encountered by different users in these different categories.  We thank everyone for their efforts to comply and despite some of the media coverage, we encourage you to keep up the good work. 

There will be significant challenges for Stage 2 - administratively, as well as in terms of resourcing with 7,601 istes in the northern inland required to be compliant to the new rules by 1 December 2021.  Please do not leave contacting a DQP if you are in this next stage to the last minute.

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WaterNSW would like to remind customers that supplementary water is available with unregulated inflows occuring downstream of Copeton Dam.  

These flows are providing water right along our river systems, the first 500ML/day are being delivered to the wetlands but any flows greater than that are being shared 50:50 between the environment and customers.  WaterNSW indicated downstream tributary inflows greater than the minimum flow to the wetlands are being diverted away from this area where possible, unless ordered by customers.  These rules and this operations, are enabling sharing of flows along our rivers and and beyond with more than 40,000ML flowing past Collarenbri from the Mehi alone this last month.  

Contact WaterNSW via email at, or alternately by contacting Roger Hunt or Ken Gee.  

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Copeton Dam has been rising since December 2020 since catchment wide rainfall began to fall with around 600GL of inflows over this time.  This rising  trend is being followed right around NSW, with the current state-wide storage capacity at 74% (Copeton Dam just below the state average at 63%).

However, percentages don't tell the whole story in the context of total water available around the state. 

The northern basin has 71% availability equalling, 1,982GL of water, the central west is above the state average at 75% with 2,230GL of water available and the souther basin also above the state average at 77% full has 8,876GL of water available. We set up a new page on our website to explore this here.

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Irrigators argue NRAR's statement was misleading given some works fell into that category due to factors outside their control - such as back-log in the supply and installation of government-approved meters and telemetry equipment.

Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) announcing they were taking enforcement action after statewide inspections found 45 per cent of inspected pumps were still not fitted with compliant meters.

GVIA said: "Its hard to be compliant to new rules when in some instances there isn't an approved replacement meter available or if your still waiting for it to arrive after ordering it.  Many of these replacement meter jobs you cannot just buy a meter and stick it in a pipe, they're custom built and designed and take significant planning and lead time.
 We'd like to thank our local service providers for their perseverance with these new rules, your patience in trying to solve these complex problems bought about by a poorly formed set of rules.  We are grateful for all your effort for the industry so far. "

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The resource assessment for Copeton Dam up to 30 June 2021 was made available with the first allocation for the year being granted to general security water users and the ECA of 11.1%.  This bring the irrigation total water availability for this year, including carry over to 264,400ML while environmental accounts hold 125,600ML. 

Supplementary water announcements are also ongoing with inflows below Copeton Dam being shared 50:50 with the environment after the first 500ML are provided to the Gwydir Wetlands.  

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NSW DPIE - Water announced starting allocations for the 2021-22 water year, on 1 July 2021.
All groundwater and surface water users received their 1ML per unit share allocation, OTHER THAN general security users who are likely to receive a new resource assessment later this month and supplementary water users who received only 0.5ML per unit share.  This is the first time supplementary licences have been reduced below 1ML per unit share, and is in response to the recent disallowance of the government's proposed regulations to reduce, measure and account for floodplain harvesting in our water sharing plan see our previous media release.
General security carry over of  214,000ML from allocations previously will be available for this new year.

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The Land's Olivia Calver reported: Gwydir Valley irrigators have hit out at the NSW Parliament after supplementary water users in the Gwydir and Border Rivers were informed their allocations would be reduced, as an apparent consequence of floodplain harvesting regulations being disallowed.

The floodplain harvesting regulations were disallowed by the NSW Upper House last month, with the opposition and cross-bench calling for downstream targets to be established before the government is given "a blank cheque" for floodplain harvesting legislation.

NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey appeared to confirm the supplementary water restriction was a result of the disallowance in a statement from her office.

"Until floodplain harvesting licences and rules are implemented, any unmanaged growth in water use will have to be offset through reduced allocations for supplementary water licences, in line with Water Sharing Plan rules," the statement read.

"The FPH policy and regs apply to all water users across NSW."

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“You don’t rob Peter, the supplementary licence holder to pay Paul, the floodplain harvester. It’s not a fair and equitable way to manage water and it’s not good policy”.  

This decision is in response to the failure of Minister Pavey to gain NSW parliament support of regulations to enable the licensing of a separate form of take, floodplain harvesting. Which in May 2021 the Legislative Council blocked regulation aimed at reducing floodplain harvesting to legal limits and ensuring all water taken from the floodplains was measured and accounted.  

GVIA, Executive Officer Zara Lowien said “we made it clear at the time that communities around the Murray Darling would be worse off without a floodplain harvesting licencing framework. We are now seeing the consequences of that misguided decision” she said.

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WaterNSW advises that Tareelaroi Weir on the Gwydir River is now operational.

Tareelaroi Weir was temporarily out of service as a result of the floods in late March. 

With the Tareelaroi Weir gates now operational, water in excess of the environmental provisions of the Water Sharing Plan may be diverted to the Mehi River.

Normal operations will resume, with downstream tributary flows expected to provide minor stock and domestic/riparian flows throughout the valley.

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DPIE Water provided the last resource assessment for the 2020/2021 water year, with a 0.9% general security allocation.  This brings the total allocation for this water year to 58%.  Essential supplies are secured for two-years in advance.

The assessment is available here.

Starting allocations will be announced on 1 July 2021 with the next resource assessment to be available on 7 June.

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The irrigation efficiency and automation research at Keytah this year has seen a large number of new innovations tested at a fild level. At our field day this year we interviewed many of the research and commercial partners in this project. Over the next few months we will be releasing these videos and loading them onto the GVIA website as well as the Smarter Irrigation for profit website. Here is one of the latest releases. 

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Moree Plains Shire Council are asking all rate payers their view on the feasibility of a potential levee around part of the town of Moree via a survey in the mail this week.  Information on the proposal is located on their website and a frequently asked question document has been prepared.  The proposal is summarised within the FAQ document and this letter.

Dryside Engineering are available for face-to-face one-on-one meetings this week in Moree.  We encourage you if you are available to discuss your thoughts with the engineers.

As there remains a gap in understanding the impacts to the rural landholders downstream of Moree (located on the Gwydir and Mehi systems), I have arranged for a targeted group session with impacted landholders will be hosted in the GVIA office.  This will help inform the final benefit cost ratio of the proposal and is important an accurate account of impacts is assessed. 

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The GVIA will not be engaging in debate regarding Mr Justin Field's, MLC decision to select statements from privileged and generic legal advice, to justify his motion to disallow regulations and ignite a new conspiracy.  

This information is not substantially inconsistent with previous advice issued by the Crown Solicitor, NSWIC or that received by individuals.  Albeit it does address a broader range of issues including case law precedents for leniency.  The regulations that Mr Field, MLC, led to disallow in the NSW Legislative Council were designed to address the known legal ambiguity with the Water Management Act once and for all, and provide a mechanism to licence, manage and meter this historical form of take in a consistent manner.

Our position remains unchanged.

Our statement regarding the mess that the disallowance creates for all NSW remains unchanged.  It can be found here. 

Mr Field should heed his own advice that the tit for tat over legal advice has to end and take productive steps to clean up the mess he helped create across all NSW.

Making Every Drop Count

Securing a future for the Gwydir Valley through Irrigated Agriculture.