Review of water sharing plans

The Water Act 1912 (NSW) (Water Act) and the Water Management Act 2000 (NSW) (WM Act) provides for the allocation and sustainable management of water resources in NSW.

Over the last 10 years, the Water Act has been progressively replaced by the WM Act.  Once a water sharing plan is introduced for a particular water source and certain gazettal notices are published, then the WM Act will regulate the use and impact on water resources in that region from that point on.

A water sharing plan for a particular water source will:

  • establish environmental water rules for the area or water source
  • identify the requirements for water within the area, or from the water source to satisfy basic landholder rights
  • identify the requirements for water extraction under access licences
  • establish access licence dealing rules for the area or water source, and
  • establish a bulk access regime for the extraction of water under access licences.

Water sharing plans are made for a period of 10 years after which they must be formally reviewed to ensure that they remain effective and continue to balance the competing needs between the environment and water users.

The NSW Office of Water (NOW) and the Natural Resources Commission are currently undertaking formal reviews of seven water sharing plans which are approaching the end of their ten year term.  The water sharing plans under review are for the Paterson Regulated River Water Source as well as six alluvial aquifer plans for the Lower Gwydir, Lower Lachlan, Lower Macquarie, Lower Murray, Lower Murrumbidgee and Upper and Lower Namoi Groundwater Sources.

Public submissions are being sought from licence holders, stakeholders and members of local communities to identify issues that need to be considered.

Submissions are due by 7 August 2015.

IPART review of prices charged for water management services in NSW

The NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has commenced a review of prices charged by NOW.

NOW charges water users for the services that it provides in relation to water planning and management activities. Water management charges apply to all categories of water access licences and are paid by licence holders. These include irrigators, mines and other industries, environmental water holders, local water utilities and major utilities supplying water to cities and towns.

The IPART review will consider the appropriateness of the current charges imposed by NOW including:

  • water management charges – based on holding entitlements for water and extracting water from regulated rivers, unregulated rivers and groundwater sources
  • consent transaction charges – for issuing Water Access Licences (WALs), works approvals and other consent transactions under the WMA and Water Act, and
  • meter service and reading charges – for maintaining and reading meters (for unregulated river and groundwater users only).

NOW’s current water management charges vary by water source as the charges are intended to be cost-reflective (i.e. based on the actual costs incurred by NOW).  The review will consider simplifying the pricing structure and the appropriateness of fixed ($ per ML of water entitlement) and usage charges ($ per ML of water extracted or water take), in view of the:

  • structure of NOW’s water management costs and how these costs vary with water usage or availability
  • ability of parties to manage water availability risk (eg, through water trading)
  • robustness of water usage (extraction) forecasts used to set usage prices
  • administrative simplicity or efficiency of the tariff regime, and
  • expected roll out of meters for unregulated river and groundwater users, and the recognition of the costs associated with installing, maintaining and reading a meter.

The review by IPART is anticipated to take 12 months, with new prices to apply from 1 July 2016.

NOW is required to make a submission to IPART, including a proposed pricing schedule by 11 September 2015.  The public may make submissions to IPART until 9 October 2015.