A NSW Government website

Basic landholder rights

Harvestable rights

Learn more about what landholders are allowed to do under harvestable rights.

Harvestable rights allow landholders (owners or occupiers of land) to capture and store a proportion of the rainfall runoff from their landholding in one or more harvestable rights dams without a water access licence, water supply work approval or water use approval.

Harvestable rights dams can be located on:

  • non-permanent minor streams
  • hillsides
  • gullies

but cannot be located on:

  • or within 40 metres of a third-order or higher order stream
  • a declared floodplain (note that no floodplains are currently declared in the coastal-draining catchments)
  • or within 3 kilometres upstream of, a wetland of international importance (listed under the Ramsar Convention).

Each landholding has a maximum harvestable right dam capacity, which depends upon the location and size of the landholding.

Restrictions may apply to the use of water stored in harvestable rights dams, depending on the location of the landholding.

Harvestable rights areas and how harvestable rights water can be used

The proportion of rainfall runoff that may be captured under harvestable rights depends upon where a landholding is located. In the:

  • coastal-draining catchments harvestable rights area (previously part of the Eastern and Central Division) – up to 30 per cent of the average annual regional rainfall runoff may be captured and used for domestic consumption, stock watering and extensive agriculture. Learn more about harvestable rights in coastal-draining catchments.
  • central inland-draining catchments harvestable rights area (previously part of the Eastern and Central Division) – up to 10 per cent of the average annual regional rainfall runoff may be captured and used for any purpose.
  • Western Division – all rainfall runoff may be captured and used for any purpose.

Find more information on the capacity and permitted water uses for mixed-rights dams in the frequently asked questions.

The boundaries of the harvestable rights areas are shown in the map below.

NSW Harvestable Rights Areas
Boundaries of the harvestable rights areas.

Download a high resolution version of the map (JPG, 1231.71 KB).

Maximum harvestable right dam capacity

The volume of water a landholder can capture and store under harvestable rights is expressed as a maximum harvestable right dam capacity for a landholding.

The combined volume of all dams (or parts thereof) that capture and store harvestable rights water cannot exceed the maximum dam capacity.

To calculate the maximum dam capacity for a landholding, landholders must use the Maximum Harvestable Rights Dam Capacity Calculator. The calculator takes into account the size and location of the landholding.

Landholders should save a copy of their results from the calculator for monitoring and compliance purposes.

Approvals and notifications for harvestable rights dams

Dams built to capture and store harvestable rights water do not require a water access licence, water supply work approval or water use approval.

However, dams that store water captured under harvestable rights as well as water taken under another right or licence (known as ‘mixed-rights’ dams) may require a water access licence and water supply work approval prior to construction.

Harvestable rights permit the capture of rainfall runoff moving naturally across the landscape. Any channels or diversion works constructed to capture and transfer rainfall runoff into a harvestable rights dam are not provided for under a harvestable right. They may require approval prior to construction.

Further information on constructing harvestable rights dams, water licences and approvals is available on the WaterNSW website.

Landholders may need to obtain consent under local environment plans and other planning regulations before constructing a new dam or enlarging an existing dam. Please contact your local council for further information.

Landholders should also be aware of, and seek other approvals that may be applicable under legislation such as the:

  • Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 | (contact your local Council)
  • Fisheries Management Act 1994 | see Activities requiring a permit
  • Crown Land Management Act 2016
  • Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016
  • Coastal Management Act 2016.

Landholders in the coastal-draining catchments harvestable rights area must complete and submit a notification form to exercise their right to capture and store water in certain circumstances. For further information visit the notification form.

Failure to comply with the above requirements may result in compliance action, including removal of unauthorised structures.

Harvestable rights orders

The harvestable rights areas and rules for capturing and using harvestable rights water are specified in harvestable rights orders.

In May 2022 the new:

The Harvestable Rights - Western Division Order remains unchanged. See NSW Government Gazette number 40 dated 31 March 2006 (pages 1628 to 1631).

Further information

For further information about harvestable rights, see the fact sheets or contact our Water Enquiries line on 1300 081 047 or water.enquiries@dpie.nsw.gov.au.

Find further information about harvestable rights in coastal-draining catchments.

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