Floodplain water harvesting in the Northern New South Wales Murray-Darling Basin February 2021 – Slattery & Johnson

When the major rivers of the Northern Murray-Darling Basin flow onto their lower floodplains they break up into thousands of smaller rivers, creeks, cowals, warrambools, flood runners and billabongs. One of these is the designated river. The floodplains of the Northern Basin make up a vast interconnected network of these streams. Floodplain water harvesting is the take of water from these floodplains.

Despite it being a large proportion of water taken for irrigation in the NSW part of the Northern Murray-Darling Basin it has never been regulated, measured or reported. The NSW government intends to license and regulate floodplain water harvesting by July 2021. Extraction will be accounted for under a water access licence, basic landholder right or licence exemption, ensuring that it is consistent with the Water Management Act 2000.

The amount of water taken by floodplain water harvesting will be measured and the volume distributed, after it is licensed. Owners of floodplain water harvesting licences will be able to be compensated for these new licences, should they be reduced in future.

Floodplain water harvesting has never been licensed, measured or monitored in NSW. On the 24th of March 2020, Helen Dalton, the NSW Member for Murray, asked Melinda Pavey, the Minister for Water, Property and Housing, in the NSW
Parliament:
What has been the volume of water extracted through floodplain harvesting in each financial year between 1993-94 and 2018-19?
The Minister replied:
“There is currently very limited data on the volume of water that has been extracted through floodplain harvesting in New South Wales because such volumes have not been required to be reported by landholders.”

At a public meeting in Dubbo on 16th March 2018 an officer of the NSW water department acknowledged that the volume of water taken by floodplain water harvesting had been:
“…grossly underestimated, …there is currently no monitoring of floodplain harvesting diversions.”

This report:

• Provides a background and summary of the NSW floodplain water harvesting policy and its implementation,

• Reviews research and reports related to floodplain water harvesting,

• Provides a map of on-farm storages on the floodplains of the NSW part of the Northern Murray-Darling Basin and the capacity of those storages.

Read the report here.21022 FPH Final Report

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