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Engagement – July 2023

Topics from the July 2023 webinar include the NSW Water Allocation and Outlook.

Macintyre River.

Water Engagement Roundup

The following are questions by topic asked from the registration and during the Water Engagement Roundup webinar recorded on Wednesday 19 July 2023 on the NSW Water Allocation and Outlook.

Watch the webinar

Wednesday, 19 July 2023 webinar.

Questions and answers

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

Allocations and outlook

Which efficient technologies are available to measure, control and allocate water consumption?

A. Reliable water distribution and usage monitoring improves confidence in resource management and allocation.

As a small horticultural (400 planted native trees) and beef livestock business, we will be bidding for 2023/24 water allocation for the irrigation of our crops, and to water stock. As a small operation we have to compete against the larger blueberry corporations operating in our region. We were previously priced out of installing a bore due to the huge increase of licencing & approvals a few years back. I found this massive price hike heart breaking and bias towards these larger corporations who are able to monopolise future allocations with their financial backing. Perhaps some sort of pro rata system given to fees and metering costs etc to support the smaller operators could be implemented. I'd be keen to hear if this has been a consideration in the past.

A. Water management fees and charges are set from time to time by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART). They are based on water managements costs and not on business size or complexity. Beyond fees and charges, access to more water is typically market-driven meaning forces of supply, demand and return on investment are at work. The department avoids interfering in the water market.

What is the future of water entitlements, will there be more buy backs etc?

A. The NSW government is generally opposed to more buybacks of NSW water entitlement as they can adversely impact NSW farming communities. However, they will consider where potential impacts can be mitigated.

Has the entire 32GL bought back from the Trangie-Nevertire Irrigation Scheme been added to the Environmental allocation for water year 2023/24?

A. All eligible licenses in the regulated Macquarie River system have received appropriate allocations for 2023/24, including at least 100% of entitlement for all categories.

What allowance for the next El Nino and drought sequence is being taken into account with the AWD?

A. Inherent in the safe, conservative design of water allocations in NSW, is the process that assumes resources are currently depleting into a new drought. That is, an extreme dry outlook (consistent with El Nino conditions) is assumed is unfolding beyond the resource currently visible, and water is allocated now accordingly. (Refer to presentation slide 7 titled Resource Assessment > Water Allocation)

Why are transmission losses not shared between higher and lower security entitlements?

A. The department does not tend to apportion transmission loss to any particular license or license category, rather a budget is set to run the river for everyone. So transmission loss is set aside first, then allocation is made to higher priority commitments and then the remaining water to general security licenses. In some valleys there is an attempt to have separate loss budgets, one for high priority requirements, the other for general security deliveries.

Is including forecast inflows in Annual Water Determinations a requirement in the water sharing plans? 

A. The premise is that all water is allocated, including assumed future inflows, but not too much. The ‘not too much’ means that enough water must be retained to meet high priority needs through a repeat of the worst drought on record to the start of the water sharing plan. This provision is normally found in water sharing plans under ‘Maintenance of Water Supply’ clauses. In this way, the water sharing plans establish the risk-based balance between allocating water now for productive use versus retaining water for system security in dry times. (Refer to presentation slide 16 titled Water allocation statements - routine)

In your presentation, you mentioned showed transmission losses not included in high security licences.

A. Before allocating water, resource managers must ensure there is enough water to ‘run’ the river and deliver all the system requirements including allocated water. Therefore a budget is established and maintained for system losses and operational requirements, for the benefit of all water users including the environment. Available water beyond that is allocated, first to higher priority commitments, then any remaining to general security licenses. In this way there is high reliability that allocated water can be delivered.

Native title implications regarding testing of NSW waters, issuing permits to fisheries to undertake activities, research activities.

A. Allocations for cultural water or native title (water) rights, can come under the requirements for Basic Landholder Rights (BLR) or as entitlement (licenses) within the water sharing plans. Where these are defined, water is set aside in the resource assessment and provided in priority order commensurate with the right or entitlement.

How much cultural water is held in each valley under the basic land holder rights?

A. Division 2 of water sharing plans (publicly available) sets out the requirements for water for Basic Landholder Rights of which Native Title Rights is a part.

A volume is specified in the plans only if there is a native title determination detailing a volume or an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) involving the use of water.

For example, in the Water Sharing Plan for the NSW Murray and Lower Darling Regulated Rivers Water Sources at Clause 19(a) the Barkandji Native Title determination states:

  • the right to take and use the water of the Non-Exclusive Areas for personal, domestic and communal purposes (including cultural purposes and for watering native animals, cattle and other stock, and watering gardens not exceeding 2 hectares), but not extending to a right to control the use and flow of the water in any rivers or lakes which flow through or past or are situate within the land of two or more occupiers SP  with a volume

All plans have provision for cultural water rights but few have reached a determination, and where there is a determination, the volume of water involved to date is small.

Available water determinations

Annual Water Determinations (AWDs) include allocations that are made on forecast inflows. Is this a requirement of each regulated water sharing plan, or a policy setting within DPE?

Could AWDs be made only on actual water in the dam without an amendment to the water sharing plan?

The expectation is that all available resource, including reasonable (safe) future inflows, is fully shared, transparently, in accordance with water sharing plans. This means it would be improper to subjectively set aside extra water beyond that required by the plan 'just in case'. The water sharing plan establishes the current 'design' which provides a risk-based balance between maximising water for productivity, and meeting environmental water commitments, whilst ensuring an acceptable degree of water security for critical needs. The Minister can change the 'design' to provide for a different balance of risks.