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Topics from the April 2022 webinar include stock and domestic rights, harvestable rights and an update on the reconnecting river country program.

Macintyre River.

Water Engagement Roundup

Collateral from the webinar on Wednesday, 20 April 2022.

Watch the webinar

20 April 2022 – A webinar was held and the topics covered included stakeholder engagement, domestic and stock rights, harvestable rights and more.

Questions and answers

The following are questions by topic asked from the registration and during the Water Engagement Roundup webinar.

Stakeholder engagement

Where can I find the fact sheets on stakeholder engagement events?

A. The Water (nsw.gov.au) website has information on department water projects and programs. If you are searching for specific information not available on the website, please contact us on water.enquiries@dpie.nsw.gov.au

Please provide up to date details of who manages what in Water for the NSW government.

A. Visit ‘Who’s who in NSW water management’ section.

Stock and domestic rights

When it comes to Basic Landholder Rights (BLR) would you be able to demonstrate how the filling of spray tanks are addressed under the existing and proposed amendments?

A. Our assumption is the question relates to filling tanks with water for weed spraying and similar activities.

Purpose-based principles would still apply as per irrigation. So, domestic and stock rights could be used for filling spray tanks to use on domestic gardens and the like, but not for use on commercial crops.

What is the effect of large groundwater flood irrigation on stock and domestic bores?

A. All groundwater pumping has the potential to cause water levels in surrounding bores to fall. When  groundwater is extracted, it creates a “cone of Depression” around the radius of the bore. The drawdown level becomes less the further away you are from the Bore. How much the water level falls relates to how long the bore is pumped, the rate of pumping, and the hydraulic properties of the aquifer.

The department has rules and permits to control the Impact of new bores on existing bores. Please email water.enquiries@dpie.nsw.gov.au if you would like further information.

Does the department keep records of Individual farms licenses inside irrigation infrastructure operation’ regarding domestic and stock rights also supplementary?

A. No, the department does not keep any records of who holds stock and domestic rights.

WaterNSW does have records of individual domestic and stock licences. For more information visit Domestic and stock rights - WaterNSW.

How are Water Sharing Plan limits maintained in regard to growing stock and domestic use through subdivisions?

A. Potential proliferation of domestic and stock rights through subdivisions is a risk recognised by the legislation. Section 52 of the Water Management Act 2000 allows for specific restrictions or prohibitions to be applied to ‘subdivisions effected on or after 1 July 2004’.

To date, no restrictions or prohibitions have been applied to any subdivisions. The department is assessing the need to apply such rules.

Is the figure of 2 ML/year for stock per head?

A. The estimate of approximately 2ML/per year stock usage is an estimate per landholding. The estimate is calculated based on average land holding sizes and stock rates, as well as climate, rainfall, and many other factors.

These estimates are estimates only for internal departmental purposes. There are no volumetric limits on domestic and stock rights.

How often are stock and domestic rights reviewed?

A. There is no requirement or statutory obligation to review these rights periodically. They are reviewed on an as-needs basis. There have been no significant/legislative changes to the rights since they were put in place in the Water Management Act 2000. The department continually reviews the way we explain these rights and fact sheets and settings. The NSW Water Strategy has committed to review these rights within the strategy’s 5-year term.

Does Murrumbidgee Irrigation have the right to cut the water off to your farms permanently and sell off your water license without the landholder’s permission, as we are told water licenses have property rights?

A. The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) regulates approvals and licences held by Irrigation Corporations under the Water Act 1912 and Water Management Act 2000. It does not regulate the contractual arrangements between each member and the Irrigation Corporation.

Visit NRAR for more information.

Who polices water theft inside an irrigation infrastructure operation (IIO) in NSW?

A. The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) prosecutes offences under the Water Management Act 2000 (WM Act). For activities relating to the theft of water, these offences involve taking water directly from a “water source.”

Any water theft that does not involve taking water from a “water source” as defined under the WM Act (for example, theft of water that has already been removed from a water source and is stored within private dams or channels) falls outside the remit of NRAR.

There is no power under the WM Act for joint private works (Irrigation Corporations, Private Irrigation Boards, Private Drainage Boards and Private Water Trusts) to penalise water theft for instances falling outside the remit of NRAR. However, those bodies may be able to take action under their internal arrangements and under civil law.

Are rights affected if taken from a bore in an at-risk water source?

A. All groundwater pumping has the potential to impact water levels, and this is especially so in at-risk water sources. That is why you do need a work’s approval for a bore for domestic and stock rights. The approvals process considers the impacts each bore will have on other bores and the water source, to ensure take is managed in a sustainable way. For more information visit Domestic and stock rights - WaterNSW

How does the stock and domestic water take impact on the overall water allocations?

A. Domestic and stock rights are prioritised under the Water Management Act 2000. The department estimates how much each water source will need for domestic and stock rights first and sets that water aside before calculating further water allocations.

This highlights the importance of understanding how much take is happening so we can ensure that estimates are valid.

How can we know that stock and domestic is used only for this purpose and not any other purposes? What is the monitoring mechanism for stock and domestic?

A. The NRAR is responsible for compliance and enforcement of NSW water law including domestic and stock rights.

For information, go to Compliance.

Is it correct that you require a meter on a bore in an at-risk source even though. You are just taking stock and domestic?

A. The mandatory metering equipment conditions do not apply to any work (bore or pump) taking water only under basic landholder rights (including domestic and stock rights. This is outlined under  Section 231(1)(d) of the Water Management Act 2000 and applies regardless of size or location of the work.

There is also a temporary exemption (until 2024)  for works (bores and pumps) used only to take water under a domestic and stock licence if:

  • the pump is less than 100mm in diameter or the bore is less than 200mm in diameter
  • the work does not take water from an at-risk groundwater source
  • the work is not listed under the same authority or linked to the same access licence as another work that requires a meter
  • the work is not on the same landholding as another work that requires a meter and is held by the same person.

Visit domestic and stock licence exemption for more information.

NSW Non-Urban Water Metering Policy p.2 says all works in at-risk aquifers require a meter - this includes S&D

A. See the answer on metering above.

The department will update FAQs on the water webpage to better explain the exemption and its limits.

Can I supply water to my neighbour from my stock and domestic bore if my neighbour's property overlies the same aquifer?

A. Generally, domestic and stock rights are intended to be used only on the property to which they apply. However, the review of the rights will consider if and how works (such as a bore or pump) could be used to allow water users to exercise rights communally.

Harvestable rights

Can you please provide details on coastal harvestable rights?

A. Information is available on the Harvestable rights website.

To what extent is one allowed to pursue water security by retaining water well within the limits of one's harvestable rights.

A. Each owner or occupier of a landholding is entitled to capture and store a portion of rainfall runoff from their property in a harvestable rights dam or dams without the need to hold and water access licence for the volume of water or a water supply work approval for the construction of the dam. Landholders can find out the maximum harvestable right dam capacity for their property by using the online calculator on WaterNSW’s website.

Landholders can use all the water captured in a harvestable rights dam irrespective of how many times the dam is emptied and filled by further rainfall events, but they should check that the total capacity (in megalitres) of the dam or dams is within the maximum capacity set for their landholding. They should also ensure those dam/s are located in permissible areas on the property – for example, they are allowed on non-permanent first- and second-order streams but not on third- or higher order streams.

Further information about harvestable rights and a recent review of these rights in coastal-draining catchments can be found at Harvestable rights dams.

What is the relationship between harvestable rights & basic landholder rights?

A. Basic landholder rights include three types of rights, outlined below:

A harvestable right is the right to take a portion of rainfall runoff on a landholding via a dam or dams, whereas a domestic and stock right relates to taking water directly from a river, lake, or estuary (e.g., using a pump), or from a groundwater aquifer using a bore.

A domestic and stock right is the right for owners or occupiers of land overlaying an aquifer or with river, estuary, or lake frontage to take water without a licence for domestic (household) purposes or to stock water.

A native title right is the right for anyone who holds native title with respect to water, as determined under the  Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993, to take and use water for a range of personal, domestic, and non-commercial purposes.

For more information visit landholder rights.

Reconnecting river country program

Can we still submit feedback to the reconnecting rivers draft LNF (Landholder Negotiation Framework)?

A. Feedback on the discussion paper closed on 15 April 2022. You can contact the project team by emailing RRCP.LNF@dpie.nsw.gov.au

For more information visit landholder negotiation framework.