Dams that do not require a licence include:
- Harvestable right dams
- Dams built before 1999 used only for stock and domestic purposes
- Dams up to one megalitre on small properties.
Unless a farm dam is part of your harvestable right you will usually need a licence and an approval from the Office of Water. For more information, refer to the information sheets and section on consents, below.
Harvestable right dams
Rural landholders in NSW can build dams on minor streams that capture up to 10 per cent of the average regional rainfall run-off for their property without requiring a licence in the Central and Eastern Divisions, and up to 100 per cent in the Western Division.
The maximum harvestable right dam capacity is the total dam capacity allowed under the harvestable right for your property and takes into account rainfall and variations in rainfall pattern. The Harvestable Rights Orders are published in the NSW Government Gazette 40 dated 31 March 2006 (pages 1628 to 1631) (PDF 259.84 KB).
Maximum harvestable right calculator
To calculate your maximum harvestable right dam capacity, go to the new, improved calculator. Note the limitations to the calculator and ensure you keep a record of your calculations.
For more information on harvestable right dams and licensing, see the fact sheets below:
Dams built before 1999 used only for stock and domestic purposes
Farm dams (larger than the harvestable right capacity) built before 1999, when the harvestable right was introduced, do not require a licence provided they are only used for stock and domestic purposes. However, these dams are included when assessing your right to build additional harvestable right dams.
Dams up to one megalitre on small properties
Licences are not required for farm dams with a volume of up to one megalitre on small properties where the maximum harvestable right dam capacity is less than one megalitre and the property was approved for subdivision before 1 January 1999 (where the dam was within the harvestable right capacity before the subdivision).
No further harvestable right dams may be constructed. Any new dams above this allowance must be licensed. For more information see About licences.
Have you considered everything?
When building a dam, it is important to make sure that the appropriate approval or licence has been obtained if this is required. Make sure that the dam is carefully located so it is effective, safe and has minimal impacts on neighbours and the environment. You will also need to ensure construction of the dam meets any other legal requirements, such as local council regulations, or consents from government agencies such as NSW Fisheries.
Minimal impacts and erosion control
Seek expert advice regarding the dam design and location before commencing construction of any farm or other dam. Even if you do not require a licence for your dam, it is still your responsibility to minimise impacts on your neighbours and the environment. Discuss the matter with your neighbours before constructing a new dam.
Also ensure that during all stages of construction you provide adequate erosion control and minimise disturbance to waterways, areas of native vegetation, sites of cultural significance and in coastal areas, avoid disturbing acid sulfate soils.
Apart from determining whether your new dam needs a licence or approval, you may need other consents. These may include consents relating to:
- Fish passage. Under the Fisheries Management Act 1994, any new dam or modification to an existing dam may require the owner to provide for fish passage. Contact your local NSW Fisheries office for further advice. All licensed works must be referred but works not licensed may still require fish passage.
- Local planning regulations. In many local government areas, local environment plans and other planning regulations require consent for construction of dams. Contact your local council for further advice.
Other consents may also be required. For more information on consents, contact Advisory Services on 1800 353 104 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact a Water Regulation Officer.
More information on farm dams
For more information on farm dams, go to:
- NSW Department of Primary Industries - Dams and storage (including information on building a farm dam)
- Sydney Catchment Authority - Farm dams (including a Farm Dam Handbook)