The Water Resource (Wet Tropics) Plan 2013 (Wet Tropics Plan) was released on 13 December 2013, and establishes a framework for the allocation and management of surface water and groundwater in seven Wet Tropics catchment areas: Daintree, Mossman, Mulgrave-Russell, Johnstone, Tully, Murray and Herbert.

Key considerations for resource tenement holders

Under the new plan, explained further below, resource tenements holders in the Wet Tropics region need to be aware that if they are unable to obtain a water allocation under the general reserve due the volumetric limit being reached, they may be required to apply for unallocated water within the State’s strategic reserve.

In this case, their project would need to be declared a coordinated project or a project of regional significance. Such projects must be considered by the chief executive with regard to the economic or social impact the project will have on the region, the public interest and the welfare of people in the region.

About the Wet Tropics Plan:

  • defines the availability of water in the plan area;
  • provides a framework for sustainably managing water and the taking of water;
  • identifies priorities and mechanisms for dealing with future water requirements;
  • provides a framework for establishing water allocations;
  • provides a framework for reversing, where practicable, degradation in natural ecosystems; and
  • regulates the taking of groundwater.

Some of the key provisions of the plan include:

  • Converting 214 existing water licences to tradeable water allocations. A water allocation has a separate title that can be sold or leased by a landowner, unlike a water licence that attaches to land.
  • Calculation provisions for the daily and annual volumetric limits for water allocations and converted water licences.
  • Meeting future water needs by setting aside a certain volume of unallocated water reserves in the seven Wet Tropics catchments for the following purposes, being:
  • for unallocated water held as a strategic reserve—a State purpose or Indigenous purpose;
  • for unallocated water held as a Cape York Indigenous reserve—an Indigenous purpose;
  • for unallocated water held as a general reserve—any purpose; and
  • for unallocated water held as a high flow reserve (which can be made available for water harvesting in the wet season) —any purpose.