A NSW Government website



Topics from the June 2022 webinar include groundwater, infrastructure, harvestable rights and an update on metering.

Macintyre River.

Water Engagement Roundup

Collateral from the webinar on Wednesday, 18 May 2022.

Watch the webinar

Peter summary description of the webinar

Questions and answers

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


When are allocations considered, consulted, and advised?

A. Allocations are considered continuously, until there is a full allocation provided to all categories in a water source. The assessment and allocation process is an ongoing one, either fortnightly or monthly, depending on the system.

As most high-priority categories of licences received a full allocation on 1 July 2022, there is no further assessment required for those licence categories.

An allocation announcement is made without consultation as:

  1. There is market sensitivity. Consulting with any one person or group may be seen to be giving an advantage in the water market.
  2. We have very little discretion about how the numbers fall and the announcement that is required to be made.

Once an announcement has been made public (advised), usually in conjunction with a water allocation statement, staff are able to explain the basis for the allocation in the context of the statutory water sharing plan rules.

Water allocation statements for the current year and past six years can be accessed below. If you require historical information, browse the NSW Water Register or the water documents archive portal.

How will allocations to irrigators and farming properties located in the central west and central north NSW compare to previous availability?

A. Availability is dependent on conditions. Although we cannot predict future conditions, there are currently good supplies of water captured in storage. This provides some confidence of good water availability for the coming year. As mentioned in the Roundup webinar, water availability is currently about as good as it gets.

How is water allocation managed across NSW and other jurisdictions when they need it e.g., with ACT, Victoria?

A. States have sovereignty for water management under the Australian Constitution. NSW and the other states have set up their own water management frameworks, which include licensing and water sharing arrangements. NSW has a particular design. Victoria have set up a different system. It's important to recognise that the NSW system has been designed particularly around annual cropping while the Victorian system is largely designed around perennial cropping or permanent plantings. In NSW we take more risk in allocating water, on the understanding that when we run out of water, which is often before Victoria, we can no longer plant those annual crops until water availability improves. In contrast, Victoria, with more permanent plantings, is more conservative with their allocations because they can't afford to not supply water to the permanent plantings of vines, orchards, and nut plantations.

When water availability is limited or when we are introducing new projects or shared rules, there is a lot of interaction and negotiation and support that we provide, particularly in dry periods.

We do not have a lot to do with the ACT, it largely has its own water storages for the population that it supports. There is not a lot of large irrigation within the ACT; it’s primarily focused on urban water supply. We are engaging with the ACT, and similarly with Queensland on the northern border. However, it is the southern connected basin, and Victoria, where up to 70% or more of water usage, trade activity and water management takes place.

For more information How water is allocated - Water in New South Wales (nsw.gov.au)

What are allocations looking like in the western plains region of NSW, in LGAs (Local Government Areas) like Bourke, Walgett, Warren, Gilgandra, Coonamble, Narromine and Warrumbungle?

A. Wet conditions have continued to prevail, resulting in all unregulated river licences being allocated 100% of entitlement on 1 July 2022 and all higher priority licences in regulated rivers being allocated in full.

All general security water users began the 2022-23 water year with water in their accounts either through new allocation or carried over from last year or both.

With so much water in NSW system why isn't there more water progressing down the river into South Australia and into the Coorong Lakes?

A. Yes, water has been flowing from NSW and Victoria across the South Australian (SA) border for extended periods in this water year as unregulated flow. In other words, it has been so wet, and the dams have been releasing water or indeed spilling water right through the southern connected system and so the flow at the SA border has been unregulated. In other words, upper states have been unable to control or regulate flows; therefore, South Australia has received extra water, beyond its (minimum) entitlement. Note that upper states don’t tend to provide more water than they are required to supply to SA, but SA benefits from any extra (unregulated) flows.

With full storages, and 'as good as it’s going to get', why does Murray general security still have to borrow from the Barmah Millewa Account at the start of season?

A. This is a function of the water sharing plan and the rules that are in place. As resource managers, we are confined to the statutory rules and have very limited discretion over what we do. In this case, the rule says that on 1 July, if allocations are less than 30%, we must borrow the Barmah-Millewa account balance to prop up general security allocations. Once those allocations get to 30%, and it's highly likely that they will be close to this at the start of the new water year, then we need to pay back that that borrow.

Given the water availability currently, there should be little difficulty in quickly paying back that borrow, allowing general security to then continue to accrue.

The water sharing plan rules can be found in each current water sharing plan Water sharing plans status - Water in New South Wales (nsw.gov.au)

Do they hold back 2 years for high security licence before they give to general security licence?

A. Yes, that is the aim. As the current year is progressing, we are also building the following year’s allocations, and again, we are obliged on 1 July, in accordance with the design of the water sharing plans, to supply full allocations to all those high priority products every year on 1 July.

So, prior to 1 July we need to be building the resource to meet high priority commitments, before allocating further to general security entitlements in the current year. The department is looking at subsequent years and ensuring that there is enough water to meet those high priority commitments under the water sharing plans on 1 July each year.

With all the forecasts looking wetter than average, and dams ‘bursting’, why take a conservative allocations approach ‘as if the next drought has started’?

A. To be safe when allocating water, we must assume that the water that we can currently see in the dams and in full rivers will recede to minimums in the weeks and months ahead. That is, we will descend into drought again.

So yes, the current rainfall forecasts are incredibly positive, but when we're putting water into people's accounts and people are relying on that water to be available when it’s needed, we need a large degree of certainty. Therefore, we don't rely on weather forecasts, as good as they are getting. We only rely on the water that we can see in the rivers and in storage, and a very small amount of minimum or drought inflow.

So, it's deliberately a conservative approach. We are not allowed to take risks with allocating water and putting water into accounts. We don't know the future with sufficient certainty, and we don't want to be (over)allocating water that cannot be delivered when needed because we have assumed future inflows that have not eventuated.

However, I will assure people that as each week and fortnight passes, we are re-assessing the water availability and safely allocating more as it is assured. So as wet conditions continue, those allocations will accrue with certainty, until full.

Last year we reached full general security allocation in the NSW Murray in about October, and I think it might even be similar this year, remembering that we cannot be certain about the future.

Therefore, we don't take the risk about future inflow and resources, but if water users want to use their tools, including the bureaus forecasts, to anticipate what the allocations are going to be, and to plan accordingly, then that is fine. It boils down to who takes the risk about future resource availability. The government has shown it is deliberately risk-averse but invites water users to exercise their own appetite for risk commensurate with their own business arrangements.

Water sharing plans and water resource plans

Please could you list all the changes made between the April 2020 version and the Feb 2022 version of the Water Sharing Plans submitted to MDBA (Murray Darling Basin Authority)

A. Changes made to each draft Water Resource Plan (WRP) based on feedback from public consultation and the MDBA’s preliminary advice is provided in a summary of changes fact sheet on each WRP page – click through the list of WRPs (Water Resource Plans) to find the documents. Water Resource Plans - status - Water in New South Wales (nsw.gov.au)


 I hope that the session will cover the transfer of responsibilities for water licensing and approvals from NRAR (Natural Resources Access Regulator) to the department on 1 April 2022.

A. Service delivery to the state’s largest water users has been simplified, with the responsibility for the management and approval of their water license’s and approvals moving from the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) to the department’s Water Group.

The department also manages all integrated development referrals for works on waterfront land and applications for controlled activity approvals. The transfer aligns licensing approvals more closely with the technical, scientific and water planning expertise within the department’s water group.

WaterNSW will continue managing water licences and approvals for all other water users in NSW, while NRAR continues to oversee all water users’ compliance with NSW water rules. All water users can use the Water Assist tool to find more information about how to apply for a water approval or licence.

Visit the new licensing and approvals webpage for more information.


If I am not irrigating now, do I still need a meter on my pump for groundwater?

The NSW Metering Guidance Tool can help with determining metering thresholds and how they relate to individual circumstances.

There are two factors to consider when answering the question: do you meet the threshold to require a meter? There are size and risk related thresholds.

If you do require a meter but you're not irrigating and you don't plan on irrigating anytime in the near future, then there is the opportunity to mark your work as inactive and avoid the measuring requirements. This can be done through WaterNSW.

If you decide to irrigate in the future, then you would mark your work as active again and then you would fall back under the metering requirements.