The first water sharing plans commenced in 2004 developed through a process involving river or groundwater management committees. Subsequently the remaining regulated, unregulated river and smaller groundwater systems were developed by interagency panels.
In all cases, consultation with stakeholder groups and licence holders was undertaken on the proposed rules and all draft plans were placed on public exhibition before they were finalised.
A water sharing plan is made by the NSW Minister for Lands and Water, but also requires the concurrence of the NSW Minister for the Environment.
The following reports have been prepared to assist community consultation on macro water sharing plans:
- Macro water sharing plans – the approach for groundwater. A report to assist community consultation (PDF 3 MB)
- Macro water sharing plans – the approach for unregulated rivers. A report to assist community consultation (PDF 796 KB)
- Macro water sharing plans – the approach for unregulated rivers. Access and trading rules for pools (PDF 624 KB)
Water sharing rules
Water sharing plans were developed for a range of widely differing rivers and aquifers. Some of the issues considered in forming water sharing rules include:
- instream values, such as threatened fish that are likely to be affected by flow extraction
- hydrologic stress – the amount of water extracted relative to river flow
- extraction value – the economic value of using the extracted water
- economic dependency of the local community on water extraction
- sensitivity of estuaries to the removal of fresh water
- NSW Government Policy.
Indicative access rules were firstly developed by balancing the instream values with the economic dependence of local communities on extraction. The greater the risk to instream values the stronger the environmental flow rules. The higher the economic dependency the less stringent the access rule. Where economic dependency and instream values are both high, more intensive management is proposed.
In the water sharing plan the stress from all upstream extraction is compared with the instream values to determine a set of preliminary water trading rules. Trading is not allowed into water sources that have high instream value. Trading is also limited in stressed water sources so as not to increase pressure on the river.
A series of 14 water policy advisory notes were prepared on a whole of government basis to assist in the development of the initial 31 water sharing plans. While prepared some time ago, the principles are still relevant to the planning process today. These are:
- Managing to diversion limits in regulated rivers (PDF 211 KB)
- Supplementary water access (PDF 204 KB)
- Floodplain harvesting (PDF 196 KB)
- Regulated rivers (high security) access licences (PDF 226 KB)
- Managing to diversion limits in inland unregulated rivers (PDF 217 KB)
- Water extraction volumes and daily flow shares in unregulated rivers (PDF 579 KB)
- Diversion limits for coastal unregulated rivers (PDF 199 KB)
- Freshwater flows to estuaries and coastal waters (PDF 224 KB)
All water sources
- Integrating water quality and river flow objectives in the water sharing plans (PDF 216 KB)
- Conservation of aquatic and riparian biodiversity and threatened species management (PDF 209 KB)
- Incorporating the results of the weir review in the water sharing plans (PDF 199 KB)
- Aboriginal issues and cultural heritage protection (PDF 44 KB)