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Emergency works exemption

An emergency works exemption is available under the Water Management General Regulation 2018 (the regulation) from 26 February 2021.

Emergency works exemption

The emergency works exemption applies to the removal of groundwater or overland flow water to address an immediate risk while undertaking urgent works that are required in response to an emergency event. It would include, for example, the removal of water from an excavation that had to be dug to fix a burst water supply pipe or sewer pipe. It does not apply to natural disaster recovery such as repairing flood damage.

Overland flow water includes:

  • water from a burst water or sewer main
  • water from damaged stormwater infrastructure
  • surface water flows

Overland flow water does not include:

  • any flows within a watercourse, river, lake or estuary
  • flood flows within a floodplain.

What does the exemption do?

It allows a public or private sector entity to carry out urgent dewatering in emergency situations without needing to apply for and hold any of the following:

  1. a water access licence for the water removed
  2. a water supply works approval for the works used to remove the water
  3. a water use approval for the use of the water removed
  4. a controlled activity approval for works undertaken in the vicinity of a watercourse.

The activity must clearly be an emergency work as defined in the regulation and summarised below. It does not apply to any further (secondary) use of the water that is removed.

What is an emergency work?

It is a work carried out urgently, as a direct result of an emergency event, to remove groundwater or overland flow water for the purpose of reducing a significant risk to:

  1. public health or safety
  2. the environment, including groundwater systems
  3. infrastructure or the construction of infrastructure.

Emergency works are limited to doing only what is necessary to address the significant risk. Any further activities done once the immediate risk has been addressed are not covered by this exemption and the entity will be required to apply for and hold relevant water access licences and approvals (PDF, 120.48 KB).

To rely on this exemption, a person must provide certain information to NRAR before or as soon as reasonably possible after commencing the relevant emergency works. A completion report must then be submitted to the department within 14 days of completing the emergency works.

More information


The Emergency Work Report is for reporting on exemptions from licences and approvals for works responding to an emergency event that requires the urgent removal of groundwater and/ or overland flow water.

Download the report (PDF. 187KB)

Fact sheet

Find the answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Water Management (General) Amendment (Emergency Works Exemption) Regulation 2018.

Download the fact sheet (PDF. 565KB)

The initial report may be provided to NRAR by phoning 1800 633 362, but preferably by email to nrar.enquiries@nrar.nsw.gov.au, using the above form (sections A – C).

The completion report must be emailed to nrar.enquiries@nrar.nsw.gov.au or mailed to:

Locked Bag 5022,
Parramatta, NSW 2124