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Sydney

                                                                                                   

Water Rights

                             

The operating rules and constraints governing water entitlements, allocations, trades and transfers are provided on this page.

 

Operating Rules and Constraints

Operating rules for water right holders

Water right holders in the Sydney region operate within the provisions of the Water Act 1912 (New South Wales) to fulfil responsibilities assigned to them except for the Kangaroo River. The Water sharing plan for the Kangaroo River water source, which is in accordance with the Water Management Act 2000 (New South Wales), provides the operating rules for the Kangaroo River. In addition to this legislation, water management licences issued to major water utilities guide them in the fulfilment of the responsibilities assigned to them (Table A1). For water right holders (major water utility, local water utility or individual holder), provisions made in legislation and water management licences define:

  • water entitlements allocated
  • temporal, spatial and volumetric conditions of using the entitlements
  • environmental and any other obligations.


Water restriction rules

Urban water utilities introduce water restrictions in the Sydney region when there are supply limitations. Water restrictions for the area managed by Sydney Water are authorised by the Minister for Water in NSW. For the other areas within the Sydney region, respective urban water utilities decide and authorise water restrictions. See the notes Water restrictions for details of water restrictions applicable to urban water utilities within the region.

Water Entitlements

NSW Office of Water manages the entitlements in the Sydney region in accordance with the Water Act 1912 (New South Wales) except for the Kangaroo River.

Entitlements in the Kangaroo River system are managed under the Water sharing plan for the Kangaroo River Water Source in accordance with the Water Management Act 2000 (New South Wales) with all licences being registered with the Lands Title Office (LTO). Any change to the water title (water access licence) goes through LTO. NSW Office of Water manages the day-to-day operation of the entitlements including the maintenance of allocation accounts.

Licences operating under the Water Act 1912 (New South Wales) are not categorised by licence type, but each licence has purposes attached to it. These purposes are given a proportion of the overall licence entitlement and provide an indication of both what the licensed water is to be used for (in a specified land) and its level of security.

Licences operating under the Water Management Act 2000 (New South Wales) are separated into licence categories that provide both:

  • a separated water entitlement that can be traded or sold independently of land
  • an indication of the security level associated with the licence.


General notes on water entitlements in the Sydney region

The legislative water resource management framework applicable for the Sydney region is being transitioned from the Water Act 1912 (New South Wales) to the Water Management Act 2000 (New South Wales). These changes are occurring on a phased basis while water sharing plans are put in place and Water Act 1912 licences (which applied to abstraction/extraction of water across the whole State) are converted to the new water access licences. Therefore NSW is currently operating under the two Acts.
The Water Management Act 2000 (New South Wales) sets the priorities for water sharing and defines them depending on water access licence/entitlement categories. The environment has first priority, followed by basic rights (domestic and stock rights, harvestable rights and Native Title Rights) and then all other licensed rights.

Water access entitlements

Water access entitlements as defined in the Water Management Act 2000 (New South Wales) provide the owner to specified shares in the available water within a particular water management area or from a specific water source. The share component may be expressed as a specified maximum volume over a particular period, as a specific proportion of the available water, a specified proportion of the storage capacity within a particular reservoir, or storage network or inflow to that reservoir.

The share component of the access licence is the volume share of water made available in a water source. The amount of water a licence holder is allocated in any year as a result of an available water determination is based on their share component. Other rules, such as carryover, are also based on the share component.

An announcement regarding the water availability determination is made with regards to a water source and access licence category and applies to all access licences in the water source with that licence category. The key elements of an announcement are:

  • water source
  • licence category
  • announcement type
  • date or period that the announcement applies to
  • percentage allocation – transaction change to apply to the access licence.

Shares in available water may be assigned generally or to specified categories of water access licences. The specified categories of water access entitlements defined in the Water Management Act 2000 (New South Wales) are:

  • regulated river (high security) access licence, licence pertaining to a regulated stream for which the supply of water is guaranteed irrespective of circumstances. Usually applies to town water supplies and irrigation of permanently established crops such as orchards
  • regulated river (general security) access licence, licence relating to a regulated stream for which water orders are accepted subject to storage/demand circumstances
  • regulated river (conveyance) access licence, irrigation corporations receive specific allocations of water
  • unregulated river access licence
  • aquifer access licence, licence granting access to use of an amount of water from an aquifer
  • estuarine water access licence, water access licence for the waters between the mouth of a river and the coastal waters of the State
  • coastal water access licence
  • supplementary water access licence, holders of supplementary access licences are able to extract water during announced periods when flows exceed those required to meet other licensed obligations and environmental needs
  • major utility access licence
  • local water utility access licence, a category of licence issued for town water supplies
  • domestic and stock access licence.


Domestic and stock rights

Under the Water Management Act 2000 (New South Wales), an owner or occupier of land that is overlaying an aquifer or has river, estuary or lake frontage can take water without a licence under domestic and stock rights for the following purposes:

  • for domestic consumption (e.g. drinking, cooking, washing, watering household gardens and filling swimming pools associated with domestic premises on the property)
  • to water stock on the property.

This water cannot be used for irrigating crops that will be sold, bartered or used for stock fodder, for washing down machinery sheds or for intensive livestock operations.

Native Title Rights

Native Title Rights allow Aboriginal native title holders (as determined under the Native Title Act 1993 (Commonwealth) to extract water for a range of personal, domestic and non-commercial communal purposes.

Harvestable rights

Harvestable rights allow landholders in most rural areas to collect a proportion of the run-off on their property and store it in one or more farm dams up to a certain size. Since they do not involve extraction directly from the river they are generally not provided for in water sharing plans.
Table R1 presents information on entitlements and basic rights for water in the Sydney region.

Table R1. Details of entitlements and basic rights for water in the Sydney region

Entitlements/rights

Entitlement/right holder

Volume (ML)

Purpose of entitlements/rights

Regulated water access entitlement

Urban class/arrangement

1,047,865 (estimated value for the Draft water sharing plan for the greater metropolitan region, changes to the value are possible in future)

Major utilities (Sydney Catchment Authority and Delta Electricity) and local water utilities

Unregulated water access entitlement—other lumped class

Urban holders

20,754 (estimated value for the Draft water sharing plan for the greater metropolitan region, changes to the value are possible in future)

Major utility (Sydney Water) and local water utilities

Individual holders for stock and domestic

2,344

Stock and domestic

Other lumped holders

126,437

Unregulated flow extraction for various purposes including irrigation, commercial, industry and environmental

Riparian basic right

 

Riparian right holders in a number of rivers in the region

32,528

Right to extract water to meet basic household requirements

Cultural basic right

Native title holders in the Kangaroo River

27

Anyone who holds native title with respect to water, as determined under the Native Title Act 1993 (Commonwealth), can take and use water for a range of needs, without holding a water access licence

Groundwater entitlements

Urban class

140

Local water utilities

Stock and domestic class

Included in other lumped class

Stock and domestic

Other lumped class

62,204

For various purposes including irrigation, commercial and industry

Groundwater basic right

Groundwater basic right holders

19,652

Right to extract water to meet basic household requirements

Total

1,311,951

 

Groundwater entitlements and rights represent less than 6% of all water rights in the Sydney region. Currently there is no reliable quantification method to estimate the extractable or used volumes of groundwater. Therefore, information about groundwater assets and use is not included in this accounting report.

Hydroelectric power generation

Eraring Energy is entitled to interchange up to a maximum of 4,021 ML between Lake Yarrunga and Fitzroy Falls Reservoir and 880 ML between Bendeela Pondage and Lake Yarrunga at any time for hydropower generation (source: Eraring Energy Water Management Licence). Eraring Energy is permitted to increase the interchanging volume between Lake Yarrunga and Fitzroy Falls Reservoir under the following circumstances:

  • during periods of unusually high power demand
  • in the event of failure of other generating stations in the State energy network or major power failure
  • times when Fitzroy Falls Reservoir is spilling to Yarrunga Creek, subject to any environmental flow requirements in Yarrunga Creek.

Eraring Energy’s rights to divert water for hydropower generation are not included in Table R1.

 

Water Allocations

The water year for water allocations and use in the Sydney region is from 1 July to 30 June. There is no formal process for allocation announcements in the Sydney region. When there is limited supply of water, authorities announce on an as needs basis restrictions to eligible allocations.

The following water allocation provisions apply for regulated water access entitlements (urban class/arrangement), unregulated water access entitlements (urban holders, individual holders for stock and domestic and other lumped holders) and groundwater entitlements (stock and domestic, urban and lumped class):

  • For each licence category in the region, water available for the year is assumed to be 100% of the share component stated on the entitlement for areas where no restriction announcement occurred.
  • The amount of water a licence holder is allocated (as a result of an allocation announcement by NSW Office of Water if applicable, expressed as a percentage of the entitlement’s share component) and the amount they can take in any year is calculated as the percentage of their annual share component stated on the entitlement.
For some licence categories, individual entitlement holders and authorised local water utilities can abstract twice the annual allocation in a given year if water is available. They are (i) regulated water access entitlements (urban class/arrangement) and (ii) unregulated water access entitlements (urban holders, individual holder for stock and domestic and other lumped holders). However, the holder should not abstract more than three times the annual allocation in any consecutive three years.

There is no allocation determination for basic rights per se; however, in times of limited supply, there may be restrictions on taking water for domestic and stock uses under riparian rights and groundwater basic rights.

Trades and Water Right Transfers

Water trading rules have been defined for the Kangaroo River unregulated water source in the Water sharing plan for the Kangaroo River water source in accordance with the Water Management Act 2000 (New South Wales). However, during 2009-10 no trading was conducted in the area.

For the other areas in the Sydney region, Division 4C - Transfer of water allocations in the Water Act 1912 (New South Wales) makes provisions for water transfers. However, the required mechanisms for such transfers do not currently exist. As a result no water trading was recorded in the Sydney region during 2009-10.