Water supply work approvals

A water supply work approval authorises its holder to construct and use a specified water supply work at a specified location. Approvals cannot be traded to another property or location.

Approvals may be granted by the NSW Office of Water to construct and operate water supply works such as pumps, bores, spearpoints or wells and to use water for a particular purpose, such as irrigation. Approvals that replace former Water Act 1912 licences will reflect the water supply works that were authorised by those licences.

Each approval includes conditions to minimise adverse impacts.

Water use approvals

A water use approval may authorise the use within NSW of water taken from a water source outside NSW. Approvals cannot be traded to another property or location.

Approval/s that replace the former Water Act 1912 licences will reflect the water use/s that were authorised by those licences.

Activities subject to approvals under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 do not require water use approval from the Office of Water.

Each approval includes conditions to minimise adverse impacts.

Applying for a water use or water supply work approval

NSW Office of Water Application form: Approval for water supply work, and/or water use (PDF 293 KB)
NSW Office of Water Application form: Approval to construct a basic landholder rights (domestic and stock) groundwater work (PDF 140 KB)

A water use approval is required to use water on land for all purposes except when exercising basic landholder rights.

You also need approval to construct and use all water supply works to:

  • extract water from a river (eg via a pump), unless you are taking water under a basic landholder right
  • extract water from a groundwater body (eg via a bore)
  • capture more rainwater run-off than your harvestable right (eg in a farm dam)
  • store water taken from a river or aquifer, in tanks or off-river storages
  • convey water to another location via irrigation channels
  • divert water away from an area, via banks or levees, includes floodplain banks
  • hold back water in a river, via a weir or in a dam other than under a harvestable right.

To simplify water management for individual properties, if both a water supply work approval and a water use approval are required then these are combined into a single, combined approval.

The application forms require information to assess whether the work may have significant impacts on the environment or whether particular conditions to minimise any impacts may be required.

Application fees for water supply work and water use approvals vary, depending on the type of work. Go to Applications and fees for more information or contact a water licensing officer.

Are there exceptions?

When taking water under your basic landholder right (eg for domestic and stock purposes) you do not need a water use approval.

You do not need a water supply work approval for:

  • pumps, pipes, troughs or tanks to take and store water from a river under a basic landholder right
  • dams within the maximum dam capacity under the harvestable right for your property
  • conveyance works, provided they are located wholly within land that is subject to a water use approval

However, you still need a water supply work approval to construct a dam in a river or to construct a bore, well, spearpoint or excavation under the domestic and stock right.

Other works may be exempt under the Water Management (General) Regulations or NSW planning legislation

Applying for a domestic and stock groundwater work approvals

What is my domestic and stock right?

If you own or occupy a landholding above an aquifer, you are entitled to take groundwater for domestic consumption and for stock watering. This is your domestic and stock right.

Water taken under a domestic and stock right may be used for normal household purposes around the house and garden and for drinking water for stock. It cannot be used for irrigating fodder crops for stock, washing down in a dairy or machinery shed, intensive livestock operations (such as feedlots, piggeries or battery chickens), aquaculture or for commercial purposes (including caravan parks or large-scale bed and breakfast accommodation) other than for the personal use of the proprietors.

While you do not need a water access licence to take this water, landholders and occupiers still need to obtain a water supply work approval to construct a water bore.

If you want to apply for a water supply work approval for a domestic and stock bore, use the Application for approval to construct a basic landholder rights (domestic and stock) groundwater works (PDF 140 KB).

For other works and water use the Application for approval for water supply works and/or water use under section 92 of the Water Management Act 2000 (PDF 293 KB).

Aspects to consider before lodging an application for an approval

A pre-application meeting with a licensing officer is recommended to discuss the proposed activity, likely impacts, the application process and the information required. The pre-application meeting is a free service. To arrange for a meeting, call your local office.

Applicants also need to demonstrate that they have secure tenure over the land where the work is to be located or where the water is to be used. Secure tenure includes:

  • ownership, or anticipated ownership within a reasonable time of submitting your application
  • an easement
  • permissive occupancy, lease or licence
  • a right under the Water Management Act 2000 to enter land in the case of Irrigation Corporations, Private Irrigation Districts and Trusts.

What happens after the NSW Office of Water receives the application?

Applications will be assessed according to the Office's assessment procedures and guidelines. Applications for the following types of approvals may need to be advertised by the Office of Water (Applications subject to Integrated Development under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 do not require advertising):

  • works taking water from river
  • bores (other than those solely for basic landholder rights)
  • works that impound water in a water source eg in-river dams and weirs
  • works constructed and used to capture rainwater run-off
  • water use such as irrigation.

The Office of Water will either determine to grant this application with appropriate conditions or refuse it. Applicants will be advised in writing of the determination and, if granted, a water use or water supply works statement will also be issued.

What are the key features of the approval statement?

The main features on the statement are:

  • Types of approval: The approval may be for water supply works or water use, or a combined approval for both works and use.
  • Expiry date: Water supply works and water use approvals are generally issued for up to 10 years. A water supply work approval for a bore used solely for accessing water to which the holder is entitled as a basic landholder right (other than water from the Great Artesian Basin) has effect until it is cancelled.
  • Water use: Lists the land where water may be used and the purpose for which water may be used, eg irrigation.
  • Authorised water supply works: Lists the work type, the parcel of land where the work is located, the water source and zone from which the work extracts or captures water.
  • Nominated works: Identifies the water access licence/s linked to the work for the purpose of taking water.
  • Conditions: Each water supply works and water use approval has conditions specified in relevant water management plans (eg local water sharing plan). The approval may also have conditions that are specific to the particular approval and location.

What happens after I receive my water supply work approval?

The approval will allow you to construct a work up to a certain capacity or size and at a specified location described in the approval.

If the water supply work approval is for a bore, your responsibility is to:

  • ensure that the works are drilled by a person who holds a current driller's licence issued by the NSW Office of Water. Drillers are required to carry their licence with them
  • provide the driller with a copy of the approval to construct the bore and conditions sheets so that they are aware of any special construction requirements. The NSW Office of Water strongly advises that you obtain a written agreement from the driller for the work to be undertaken.

The Office of Water recommends that the driller construct the bore to the minimum requirements set out in the guidelines Minimum Construction Requirements for Water Bores in Australia available from www.iah.org.au, under Publications.

A copy of Form A - Particulars of completed work (PDF 82 KB) is provided with approvals for a water supply work. As part of their licence requirements, drillers must complete this form (details of the location of the bore on your property, construction details of the bore, as well as information on the quality of the bore water). You must send the Form A to the Office of Water, together with any other additional information required in the water supply works approval, within two months of completion of the bore.

Do I need a pumping test to be carried out on my bore?

Test pumping of your new bore allows the safe yield of the bore to be determined. That is, the optimum pumping rate that can be achieved without significant drawdown impacts. The information obtained from test pumping also allows pump suppliers to recommend a suitably sized pump for your bore, as well as advising on its appropriate depth of placement.

Following completion of a bore for domestic and stock use, test pumping at a constant rate is recommended for a minimum duration of six hours as described in the Minimum Construction Requirements for Water Bores in Australia and the Australian Standard AS 2368–1990 Test Pumping of Water Wells.

In the case of bores for irrigation, industrial, recreation or other commercial purposes located in the coastal management area of the state, it is recommended that a hydrogeological consultant is engaged to manage a longer term pumping test in accordance with the Coastal groundwater – test pumping groundwater assessment guidelines for bore licence applications (PDF 611 KB).

Other specific requirements apply for licences in inland areas. Contact the water licensing officer at your local office for further advice.

Extending a water supply work and/or use approval

Letters to approval holders to notify them about extending an approval are posted by the NSW Office of Water before the expiry date of an approval.

Many approval holders can apply online to extend their approval. If your notification letter includes a personal application number, you can use our Water Applications Online service to apply and pay online to extend your approval.

If your notification letter does not include this number you will need to fill in the hard copy application form posted with your notification letter.

What happens if the holders of an approval change?

If an existing approval holder/s wants to extend an approval but the approval holders have changed, the records for the approval held by the Office of Water will first need to be updated with the new holders' details. Charges that may relate to the approval for future water use may then be directed to the correct holder/s.

If you are an existing approval holder or are no longer the holder of an approval:

Approval for clearing vegetation for water use

If you need to clear native vegetation for water use, an approval from the Office of Environment & Heritage is required. For more information visit Native vegetation management.