Flood work approvals
Changes in floodplain management
Since 21 September 2015 the construction and use of a work defined as a flood work requires a flood work approval unless an exemption applies.
This change is part of wider reform to floodplain management. For a guide to the changes, read Floodplain Management Under the Water Management Act 2000: A Guide to the changes (PDF 57 KB).
What has happened to former controlled work approvals?
Former controlled works under the Water Act 1912 have been replaced with a flood work approval under the Water Management Act 2000. Replacement flood work approvals reflect the controlled works which were formerly authorised by those licences.
If an exemption applies under the Water Management Act 2000, the flood work will not require an approval.
While controlled work approvals were approved for a period of five years under the Water Act 1912, the flood work approvals which have replaced these controlled work approvals will have effect until either:
- 21 September 2017 (ie two years from the commencement of the relevant provisions of the Water Management Act 2000, or
- the balance of the period for which the former controlled work approval would have been in effect,
whichever is the longer period.
What do I need to do if I held a former controlled work approval?
If you held a controlled work approval you do not have to do anything. A copy of the flood work approval with a new approval number will soon be posted to you to replace your former controlled work approval.
A flood work approval confers a right on its holder to construct and use a specified flood work at a specified location.
Approvals cannot be traded to another property or location.
A flood work approval statement will specify the:
- Expiry date: Flood work approvals are generally issued for 10 years.
- Authorised flood works: Lists the work type, the parcel of land where the work is authorised to be constructed and used and any relevant floodplain management plan details.
- Conditions: Relevant conditions for the flood work/s.
Note that flood work approvals do not authorise approval holders to take (ie to harvest or capture) water. The capture of water flowing across a floodplain will require a floodplain harvesting access licence and a water supply work approval authorised under the Water Management Act 2000. Floodplain harvesting access licences are yet to be issued.
What is a flood work?
A flood work means a work that is:
- situated in or in the vicinity of a river, estuary or lake, or within a floodplain, and is
- of such a size or configuration that (regardless of the purpose for which it is constructed or used), it is likely to have an effect on the flow of water to or from a river, estuary or lake, or the distribution or flow of floodwater in times of flood.
- a barrage
- a causeway
- a cutting
- an embankment
- a levee to prevent inundation of flood water
- a storage structure
- a building pad
- a below ground channel
Flood works also include all associated pipes, valves, metering equipment and other equipment.
Why is a flood work approval required?
Flood work approvals help to manage water on floodplains. An approval may be granted after assessing whether the work may have significant impacts on the floodplain environment, neighbouring properties or health and safety or whether particular conditions to minimise any impacts may be required.
Applications for approvals for flood works in areas governed by floodplain management plans will also be determined by the rules of the plan. These floodplain management plans will apply floodplain management planning arrangements consistently across the extent of major flooding in a valley.
For information on floodplain management plans which were developed under the Water Act 1912 and are still current see NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.
Floodplain management plans which are developed under the Water Management Act 2000 will include management zones, which are areas of the floodplain where specific rules will define the types of flood works that may be constructed within that management zone. Development of these management zones and rules is partly based on consideration of the footprint of existing flood works.
For information on new floodplain management plans for the Gwydir, Border Rivers, Namoi, Macquarie and Barwon Darling Valleys. go to An overview of Floodplain Management Plans under the Water Management Act 2000 (PDF, 141 KB).
Some activities considered low-risk or covered by other legislation are exempt. Go to the fact sheet Understanding exemptions to flood work approvals (PDF, 500.3 KB) for more information on the exemptions from the need to obtain an approval to construct and use a flood work.
Information about existing approvals
Use the online NSW Water Register to search for information about:
- the status of flood work approvals granted by DPI Water, including conditions
- approval applications.
Applying for a flood work approval
For the forms Application for a new approval for a flood work and Application to amend an approval for a flood work and guides as well as information on fees go to Applications and fees.
Step 1 - Before lodging an application for an approval
A pre-application meeting with a water regulation 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.
Step 2 - What happens after DPI Water receives the application?
Applications will be assessed according to DPI Water's assessment procedures and guidelines.
If an application for a flood work approval does not comply with the relevant floodplain management plan, or the plan requires advertising, the application will need to be advertised.
Applications subject to Integrated Development under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 do not require advertising under the Water Management Act 2000.
DPI 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 flood work approval will be issued.
Step 3 - What happens after I receive my flood work approval?
The approval will allow you to construct and use a flood work at a specified location authorised by the approval and the conditions applying to this.
Extending a flood work approval
Before the expiry date of replacement flood work approvals, approval holders will be advised they may apply to extend their approval for a period of ten years.
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. For more information, go to information about applying and paying online.
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.