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Managing decline in groundwater levels

Our hydrogeologists reviewed and analysed data from 1,300 groundwater monitoring sites.

In February 2022 the department formally known as NSW Department of Planning and Environment published reports on how groundwater levels have been changing since monitoring began in the 1970s-80s across 29 inland alluvial groundwater systems. Department hydrogeologists reviewed and analysed data from 1,300 groundwater monitoring sites.

They looked at how deep the groundwater levels fall during the summer irrigation season and the level to which they recover when the bore pumps are turned off during winter.

Groundwater levels have generally fluctuated within acceptable levels of decline and recovery. However in some localities, with concentrated areas of pumping, groundwater levels are not able to fully recover before the following irrigation season starts.

Report

This short report summarises results from monitoring bores in 29 groundwater sources where groundwater levels fall below acceptable levels during the pumping season. It also reports the number of monitoring bores in which water levels do not recover sufficiently before the start of the next irrigation season.

Download the report (PDF. 483KB)

The reports provided background information for meetings held with community and groundwater licence holders in these areas in March 2022.

We held information sessions in Moree, Wee Waa, Gunnedah, Quirindi and Goolongong in March 2022. The presentation material for these meetings can be downloaded from the Water presentations library.

We invited stakeholders to provide feedback following the information sessions via email until 8 April 2022.

Based on what we heard, the department will do the following.

Upper Namoi Zone 12 and Upper Namoi Zone 8 groundwater sources

  • We will further consult with the stakeholders in the Upper Namoi Zone 12 groundwater source and the Upper Namoi Zone 8 groundwater source when we receive feedback from their independent discussions on potential options to limit further decline in groundwater levels. Should the current good seasonal conditions change and the department observes that groundwater levels are continuing to decline, the department will meet with the stakeholders to discuss management options.

Upper Lachlan Alluvial Groundwater Source

  • We will further consult with stakeholders in Management Zone 2 of the Upper Lachlan Alluvial Groundwater Source if the department observes further declines in groundwater levels in this area.

Lower Namoi and Lower Gwydir groundwater sources

  • We met with stakeholders in the Lower Gwydir and Lower Namoi groundwater sources in September 2022 to further consult on how to manage and limit groundwater level declines.
  • Submissions were received from both Namoi Water and Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association. These were considered by the department, including an option to change the impact assessment threshold that applies to third-party bores in line with the same criteria for other similar alluvial groundwater sources across the state.
Important information

From 1 July 2023

  • The impact assessment threshold that applies to third-party bores in the Lower Namoi and Lower Gwydir groundwater sources is 3 m. This threshold applies to bores located in semi-confined or confined areas of the groundwater source.
  • The state-wide groundwater trading assessment process will apply in the Lower Gwydir and Lower Namoi groundwater sources. This includes the assessment of impacts for temporary trades.

From 21 August 2023 to 30 June 2024

  • The impact assessment criteria for third-party bores will not be applied to temporary trade applications that require impact assessment in the Lower Namoi Groundwater Source. The impact on the aquifer, impact on groundwater dependant ecosystems and impact on surface water assessment criteria will still be applied where applicable.

From 1 July 2024

  • The impact assessment criteria for third-party bores will be applied to temporary trade applications that require impact assessment in the Lower Namoi Groundwater Source. This is in addition to the impact on the aquifer, and impact on groundwater dependant ecosystems and/or impact on surface water assessment criteria that also apply to impact assessments for temporary trades where applicable.
  • WaterNSW are proposing to commence a process where the applicant of a temporary trade can seek consent from impacted third-party bore holders to allow a trade to go ahead where all other assessment criteria pass the impact assessment.

Further information on the process will be available on the WaterNSW website prior to 1 July 2024.

  • The department and WaterNSW are attending a Namoi Water meeting on the 23rd February 2024 in Wee Waa to present a groundwater status update for the Lower Namoi Groundwater Source and discuss previous issues raised by Namoi Water around third-party bore impacts. The information being presented by the department and WaterNSW is available–Lower Namoi Alluvium Groundwater Source status update (PDF, 3815.55 KB).

Fact sheet

Further information applicable up to 30 June 2024 can be found in the Groundwater temporary trade in the Lower Namoi Groundwater Source fact sheet.

Download the fact sheet (PDF. 207KB)

Fact sheet

A fact sheet for groundwater temporary trades that applies across the state.

Download state wide fact sheet (PDF. 1,500KB)

You can download other documents from the Groundwater document library.