Floodplain harvesting is the capture and use of water flowing across a floodplain that is not covered by another extraction category such as an access licence, harvestable right or capture of irrigation runoff in tailwater return systems according to licence conditions or best management practices.
The NSW Government has finalised the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy. The Floodplain Harvesting Policy will be applied state wide to bring floodplain harvesting activities into a statutory licencing and approvals framework under the Water Management Act 2000.
- View the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy (PDF 164 KB)
Why do we need a Floodplain Harvesting Policy?
Floodwaters provide a valuable source of water to local and downstream water users and play an important role in replenishing floodplains, rivers, wetlands and groundwater.
The NSW Government has developed the Floodplain Harvesting Policy to provide a framework for the management of water extraction from our floodplains for the benefit of existing water users and the environment. The Policy ensures that eligible floodplain water users have the security of a water licence that is compensable under the Water Management Act, which is the case for most other water categories.
Under the Policy, the amount of floodwater available for extraction in NSW will be capped and shared among existing water users. All works undertaking floodplain harvesting extractions will require an approval from the NSW Office of Water before being used to capture floodplain harvesting water.
Key measures of the Policy are that:
- Floodplain harvesting licences will be determined according to the capability of the works that are to be used to extract water.
- Floodplain harvesting licences will be issued in perpetuity, like most other categories of water licence under the Water Management Act 2000.
- Floodplain harvesting licences will have compensation rights under the Water Management Act 2000.
- After the first five years of the Policy, holders of floodplain harvesting licences will not be limited in the amount of unused water allocations they can carry over to subsequent years.
- Trading of annual water allocations for floodplain harvesting licences will be permitted as soon as methods for monitoring and accounting of floodplain harvesting extractions are in place.
- Water users will have greater involvement in the roll out of floodplain harvesting licences through the NSW Healthy Floodplains Project.
Proposed changes to the NSW Healthy Floodplains Policy
As a result of the implementation of the Floodplain Harvesting Policy in the Gwydir, a number of changes are planned to reflect the lessons learnt through this process. Overall, the planned changes aim to provide more flexibility to take into account the inherent variability of floodplain take. The most significant of the planned changes are summarised below:
- Removal of the requirement to set a separate floodplain harvesting long term average annual extraction limit (LTAAEL) for floodplain harvesting extractions.
- Allow for flexibility in the issue of share components and establishment of account rules as long as they result in total extractions complying with the LTAAEL.
- Remove specific reference to account or use limits for both the initialisation period and on-going account management to allow for more flexible account rules.
- Refer to the proposed rainfall runoff exemption in the definition of floodplain harvesting.
- Updating references to the on-farm monitoring strategy to reflect the changes to the Floodplain Harvesting Monitoring Policy.
The planned changes to the Floodplain Harvesting Policy are expected to be finalised by the middle of June 2017
Draft Floodplain Harvesting Monitoring Policy
Floodplain landholders and the general community are being invited to comment on a draft Floodplain Harvesting Monitoring Policy.
The harvesting of floodplain water is an important aspect for many rural landholders in the viability and operation of their farming activities. In order to support the accessibility of floodplain water into future, as well as reliability of water supply for downstream users and protection of the environment, access and monitoring of floodplain water extraction is critical.
The draft Policy supports the current legitimate access to floodplain harvesting to protect industry security into the future and is easy for floodplain harvesters to implement to minimise regulatory burden. The Policy is also designed to minimise the costs of measuring, recording and reporting floodplain harvesting.
Under the Water Management Act 2000, water extraction, including floodplain harvesting, must be taken under an appropriate water access licence, a basic landholder right or a licence exemption.
The monitoring requirement for floodplain water will apply to those landholders who are eligible to receive a floodplain harvesting access licence under the Floodplain Harvesting Policy and will form part of their respective licence conditions.
All interested people, especially floodplain landholders, were invited to review the draft Floodplain Harvesting Monitoring Policy and make comment to ensure that the final Policy deals with local issues in a practical way.
- Draft Floodplain Harvesting Monitoring Policy (PDF, 78.9 KB)
- Fact sheet – Draft Floodplain Harvesting Monitoring Policy overview (PDF, 52.44 KB)
The Floodplain Harvesting Monitoring Policy submission period is now closed.