Daly
Water access and use

Water rights, entitlements, allocations and restrictions

a. Introduction

This note provides information about the water access rights granted by jurisdictions to the users of the region's water resources and the associated allocation announcements, diversions, adjustments and forfeitures.

The 2012 Account acknowledges that the legislative water resource management frameworks relating to Australian water rights vary greatly across jurisdictions, sometimes making comparisons difficult. To facilitate meaningful comparisons between the water accounting reports included in the 2012 Account, the Bureau has developed and applied an accounting concept to classify and report water entitlements within a water asset/water liability framework.

According to that framework, water rights for the Daly region for the 2011–12 year have been classified as shown in Tables 1 and 2.

b. Surface water rights

Table 1 summarises the surface water rights for the Daly region, including surface water allocations, abstractions, forfeitures and adjustments during the 2011–12 year.

The total water allocation announcement is assumed to equal 100% of the annual entitlement.

 

Table 1  Summarised information on surface water rights, allocations, abstractions, adjustments and forfeitures for the Daly region during the 2011–12 year

Water rights (at 30 June 2012)

Water allocation (2011–12)

Water abstraction (2011–12)

Adjustment and forfeiture (2011–12)

Account line item

Volume (ML)

Account line item

Volume (ML)

Account line item

Volume (ML)

Account line item

Volume (ML)

32.3 Surface water access entitlement for allocated diversions

7,107

21.1

3,651

17.11

562

13.1

3,137

21.2

3,456

17.12

2,355

13.2

1,070

Total

7,107

 

7,107

 

2,917

 

4,207

 

More information about the items presented in Table 1 is provided in the linked line item notes.

c. Groundwater rights

Table 2 summarises the groundwater rights for the Daly region, including groundwater allocations, abstractions, adjustments and forfeitures during the 2011–12 year.

The total water allocation announcement is assumed to equal 100% of the annual entitlement.

 

Table 2  Summarised information on groundwater rights, allocations, abstractions, adjustments and forfeitures for the Daly region during the 2011–12 year

Water rights (at 30 June 2012)

Water allocation (2011–12)

Water abstraction (2011–12)

Adjustment and forfeiture (2011–12)

Account line item

Volume (ML)

Account line item

Volume (ML)

Account line item

Volume (ML)

Account line item

Volume (ML)

33.3 Groundwater access entitlement for allocated extractions

64,175

22.1

60,099

18.11

14,482

14.1

46,294

22.2

4,076

18.12

757

14.2

3,291

Total

64,175

 

64,175

 

15,239

 

49,585

 

More information about the items presented in Table 2 is provided in the linked line item notes.

Water use

a. Environmental benefit

Introduction

Environmental Water Provision in the Daly region comes under the following environmental water management scenario: planned unregulated water.

 

Environmental water legislation

The perennial nature of both the Katherine and Daly rivers is maintained throughout the year by groundwater discharge from the Tindall and Oolloo aquifers. These rivers flows are critical for both environmental purposes and social and cultural values as they protect a variety of dependant ecosystems and maintain flow at a number of culturally important sites.

Both the Water Allocation Plan for the Tindall Limestone Aquifer, Katherine 2009-2019 and the Draft Water Allocation Plan for the Oolloo Aquifer make provisions to maintain environmental flows in the Katherine and Daly rivers based on findings by Erskine et al, 2003. This report provides recommendations for the maintenance of minimum streamflows to protect aquatic flora and fauna and ensure that riparian vegetation is supplied at times of extreme water stress. These plans also recognise that social, cultural and environmental values are often intrinsically linked and in accordance with Section 22B of the Water Act, have recognised water for environmental and cultural benefit as a beneficial use.

Further information on the Daly region's environmental water legislation is provided in the Environmental water management section of the 'Contextual information'.


Environmental water provisions

Tindall Limestone Aquifer, Katherine

Part 4 of the Tindall Plan describes the environmental provisions in place to preserve the groundwater discharge from the Tindall Aquifer flows into the Katherine and Daly Rivers. Due to the highly variable rainfall of the region the Plan has made provisions for three different scenarios; very dry, dry and normal to wet years. Recharge rates and groundwater discharges in each of these scenarios has been defined using modelled flow rates on 1 November.

The environmental provisions indicated in the Tindall Plan are as follows;

  1. During very dry years, 87% of the groundwater discharging into the Katherine River will be reserved for environmental and other river-based public benefit outcomes whilst 13% is available for extraction. Very dry years are defined as those years for which modelling predicts that the flow in the G8140001 Katherine River at Katherine Railway Bridge on 1 November, will be less than or equal to 0.6 m3/s. Modelling indicates that at a 1 November instantaneous flow of 0.6 m3/s, 87% of annual discharge from this water source represents 29,043 ML.
  2. During dry years, 80% of the groundwater discharging into the Katherine River will be reserved for environmental and other river-based public benefit outcomes, whilst 20% is available for extraction. Dry years are defined as those years for which modelling predicts that the flow in the Katherine River at G8140001 Katherine Railway Bridge on 1 November will be greater than 0.6 m3/s and less than or equal to 1 cumec. Modelling indicates that at a 1 November instantaneous flow of 0.7 m3/s, 80% of annual discharge from this water source represents 31,088 ML, and that at a November 1 instantaneous flow of 1 cumec, 80% of annual discharge from this water source represents 44,511 ML.
  3. During normal to wet years, 70% of the groundwater discharging into the Katherine River will be reserved for environmental and other river-based public benefit outcomes whilst 30% is available for extraction. Normal and wet years are defined as those years which modelling predicts that the flow in the Katherine River at G8140001 Katherine Railway Bridge on 1 November will be greater than 1 m3/s. Modelling indicates that at a 1 November instantaneous flow of 1.1 m3/s, 70% of annual discharge from this water source represents 42,842 ML, and that at a 1 November instantaneous flow of 2 m3/s, 70% of annual discharge from this water source represents 77,895 ML.

Further details can be found in the Water Allocation Plan for the Tindal Limestone Aquifer, Katherine.


Oolloo Aquifer

Part 4 of the Draft Plan describes the environmental provisions in place to preserve the groundwater discharge from the Oolloo Aquifer into the Katherine and Daly Rivers.  Using directly related research by Erskine et al. 2003 and Chan et al. 2010, the Plan outlines the percentage of discharge that is to be reserved for environmental flows during average to above average rainfall or below average rainfall years.

The Draft Oolloo Plan places annual extraction limits based on modelled 1 November streamflow at G8140040 Daly River at Mount Nancar for Oolloo North 1 zone, G8140040 Daly River at Oolloo Crossing for the Oolloo North 2 zone and at G8140067 Daly River at upstream Dorisvale Crossing for the Oolloo Southern zone.

The environmental provisions stated in the Plan are:

  1. The total amount of annual discharge from this water source that will be preserved for Environment, Indigenous Cultural and other public benefit outcomes in the water accounting year immediately following average and above average rainfall years will be a proportion of discharge that contributes to more than or equal to 80% of natural streamflow at Dorisvale, Oolloo Crossing and Mount Nancar as calculated by the model based on the previous year's wet season (1 November to 30 April). For the purpose of this plan, average and above average rainfall years are when modelled streamflow is more than 6.2 m3/s at Dorisvale and and/or 12 m3/s at Oolloo Crossing.
  2. The total amount of annual discharge from this water source that will be preserved for environment, Indigenous cultural and other public benefit outcomes in the water accounting year immediately following below average rainfall years will be a proportion of discharge that contributes to more than or equal to 92% of natural streamflow at Dorisvale, Oolloo Crossing and Mount Nancar as calculated by the model based on the previous year's wet season (1 November – 30 April). For the purpose of this plan, below average rainfall years are when modelled streamflow is equal to or less than 6.2 m3/s at Dorisvale and/or 12 m3/s at Oolloo Crossing and Mount Nancar.

 

Further details can be found on in the Draft Water Allocation Plan for the Oolloo Aquifer and the Environmental water management section of the 'Contextual information'.


Environmental water outcomes

Tindall Limestone Aquifer, Katherine

The 2011–12 year was classified as a normal to wet year. Predicted streamflow on 1 November at G8140001 Katherine River at Katherine Railway Bridge in a normal to wet year is between 1–2 m3/s. Part 4 of the plan states that 30% of the water source that contributes to the flow at Katherine River is available for extraction (the remaining 70% is reserved for environmental water and other river-based public benefit). The predicted flow of 1–2 m3/s equates to a volume of approximately 18,000–33,000 ML being available for extraction from the aquifer. The allocated volume for the 2011–12 year for the Tindall Aquifer of 31,327 ML (see 22.1 Groundwater allocation announcements) is within this range.

It should be noted that the actual observed streamflow on 1 November 2011 at G8140001 Katherine River at Katherine Railway Bridge was greater than 4 m3/s, which indicates the volume of water for environmental benefit exceeded the minimum requirements.

Oolloo Aquifer

During the 2011–12 year the Water Allocation Plan for the Oolloo Aquifer was still in draft and consequently the provisions of this plan have not yet been implemented.

b. Social and cultural benefit

Purpose of note

The purpose of this note is to provide information about cultural water in the Daly region. Its scope includes a brief description of the social and cultural rights, customs and associated objectives; the processes used to incorporate consideration of these values into plans and detail of provisions for cultural water.  

Description

'For Aboriginal groups in the Daly River region, water resources are highly significant to their way of life, identify and family history. Many of the sacred sites recorded within the Daly region are associated directly with the Daly River and its tributaries. Aboriginal people rely on the Daly River being kept in good health as it is used for drinking purposes, fishing and collecting food, fibre and medicines. Aboriginal people also have customary obligations associated with water including responsibility of keeping the water clean, protecting access to particular places along the river, protecting cultural knowledge, providing cultural education and sharing songs and stories involving the river.' (Northern Territory Government 2010).

Aboriginal peoples have never drawn a distinction between the land and the waters that flow over, rest upon or flow beneath it. The land and waters are equal components of 'country', all that require care and nurturing, and for which there are on-going responsibilities (Lingiari Foundation 2002). This explains to some extent the difficulties for Aboriginal people of requirement to quantify water volumes and values for the purposes of sharing water amongst various users (Robinson 2009).

Traditions in the Daly remain vibrant as a result of social action and recounting of stories which convey the meaning and enduring significance of water (Northern Land Council/Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority 2004 cited by Jackson 2004). For the Indigenous people in the Daly region cultural interaction with the landscape and economic needs are met through 'land management practices, ceremonial activities, hunting, fishing and bush tucker collection' (Jackson 2004). The contemporary use of cultural water sites is influenced by a number of factors such as access, the condition of places and cultural knowledge (Cooper and Jackson 2008). Aboriginal people with non traditional ownership interests in the Daly Region also have cultural interests in water.

The importance of the use of wild resources found in rivers and wetlands in the Daly region (amongst others) was investigated by Jackson et al 2011. The spatial and temporal pattern of resource use was mapped and the value to households of contributions of aquatic species harvest was estimated using replacement value. It was noted however that 'fish and fishing in Indigenous societies has multiple values' beyond their economic value (Jackson et al 2011). 'Indigenous people value aquatic ecosystems in a number of inter-related ways; they provide bush foods, art and craft materials and medicines; they are part of a socially and culturally significant landscape, and have the potential to sustain future water-related businesses and employment' (Jackson et al 2011).

Highlighted findings from the study include:

  • In the Daly River catchment harvesting sites were identified along the Daly River, tributaries and low lying floodplain areas.
  • Surveyed households in the Daly River reported 1.52 harvesting trips per fortnight. The frequency is lowest during the wet season.
  • Harvesting activities in the Daly concentrated on the main river channel during the Wet season and billabongs during the dry season.
  • Long-necked Turtle are the species harvested and consumed in the highest numbers. Four of the top five species harvested in the greatest numbers are non-fish species. Black Bream being the only fish species in the group.
Plan making and consultation

In the Northern Territory there is a general requirement for investigation and analysis of the resource and provision for the establishment of a Water Advisory Committee but no specific provisions for public consultation. In practice, the interests of Indigenous people in water planning are represented by their participation in water planning processes and through the conduct of studies and assessments which are used to inform the development of water plans. 

The Daly River Community Reference Group was set up in 2004 to identify and examine the environmental, social, economic, cultural and heritage values of the region and 'the special connection of the Aboriginal Traditional Owners have to the land' (Jackson and O'Leary 2006). The Daly River Management Advisory Committee has succeeded the Community Reference Group and continues to be an important forum for community input into the regions' planning.

The Daly River Aboriginal Reference Group is the peak body for Indigenous people in the Daly and is a sub-committee to the Management Advisory Committee and have representation on it (Northern Territory Government 2012a). 

The Katherine Water Advisory Committee is a sub-committee of the Daly River Management Advisory Committee. It has representatives from a wide range of stakeholder groups. It has provided advice to government on the formulation of the Water Allocation Plan for the Tindall Limestone Aquifer (Katherine).

The Daly River Management Advisory Committee is the advisory committee for the Draft Oolloo Aquifer Water Allocation Plan. The advice of the Aboriginal Reference Group was also provided for the Draft Oolloo Plan.

Water Allocation Plan provisions

Each of the water allocation plans described in 'Water management plans' of the 'Contextual information' make the following provision for Indigenous water in the Daly region. The plans:

  • Recognise Indigenous rights and interests in water.
  • Provide for Indigenous interests through measures to limit extraction of groundwater.
  • Have an underlying premise that the maintenance and protection of environmental flows will ensure the protection of Indigenous cultural sites and uses.
  • Acknowledge that the adequacy of this approach is to be tested.
  • Provide for monitoring and additional studies to improve the information upon which cultural water provisions are based.
  • Commit to taking new information into account in the 5 year review of the plans.
  • Include mechanisms for the creation of water allocations to Indigenous purposes in particular circumstance.

All three plans in the Daly Region recognise that the groundwater resources of the region 'contributes to the perennial nature of surface water flows in the Katherine and Daly Rivers which is critical for maintaining ... the condition of places that provide physical and spiritual fulfilment to Indigenous people.' 

The water plans align requirement for protection of the environment with those of cultural values. 'Provision of discharge for environmental protection will also maintain the condition of places that are valued by Indigenous people for cultural purposes' (Northern Territory Government 2009).

Water allocation plans in the Northern Territory must be reviewed at least once every 5 years (Water Act 1992s.22B). Amongst other things the review will consider the outcomes of monitoring programs and research findings, in particular TRaCK projects in the Daly Region (Northern Territory Government 2009).

If the review identifies a need to increase provisions for environmental, Indigenous cultural and other instream public benefit outcomes extraction limits may be modified (Northern Territory Government 2009). On the other hand if more water is made available through an increase in extraction limit or amendments to licences the provision of water for Indigenous commercial development is just one of four activities to be allocated water without a clear priority between them (Northern Territory Government 2009).

Tindall Limestone Aquifer

The Katherine (Tindall Limestone Aquifer) Water Allocation Plan and the Draft Mataranka (Tindall Limestone Aquifer) Water Allocation Plans make provisions for Indigenous water for the Tindall Limestone Aquifer.

Part 3 of each Plan details outcomes, objectives, strategies and performance indicators. Identified outcomes the Plan include:

  • Ecosystems dependent on the Tindall Aquifer, which are important for biodiversity, tourism, aesthetics, recreation and Indigenous cultural values, including springs and the Katherine and Daly Rivers, are preserved in good condition.
  • Indigenous people have access to water from the Tindall Aquifer for commercial development.
  • Water dependent sites with identified Indigenous cultural importance, including the Katherine Hot Springs, are preserved.

The protection of environmental and cultural values associated with the Tindall Limestone Aquifer is provided in the Plan through strategies to:

  • Protect low flows in the Katherine River, in order to maintain stream connectivity and contribute to the provision of minimum environmental flows in the Daly River;
  • Maintain spring discharge to the Katherine River from the Tindall Aquifer, including the Katherine Hot Springs which have Indigenous cultural significance;
  • Improve understanding of Indigenous cultural water needs to ensure sufficient water is provided for this purpose;
  • Adjust the extraction limit on an annual basis, based on rainfall and recharge, to ensure that environmental flows continue to be protected in drier years.

The Water Allocation Plans of the Tindall Aquifer recognise that due to a lack of knowledge of cultural requirements and other influencing factors such as pending Native Title claims, the needs for cultural water may change. The Plan makes provisions to take into account findings from monitoring programs, desktop studies and social studies. Provisions for future economic development are detailed in Future outlook.

Ooloo Aquifer

Draft Water Allocation Plan for the Oolloo Aquifer purposes include:

  • To support economic development opportunities, including Indigenous landowner use;
  • To initiate strategies for sustainably managing water and the taking of water from this water source;
  • To initiate strategies for the ongoing protection of environmental and cultural values associated with this water resource.

The Northern Territory approach of reserving at least 80% of annual recharge for environmental and other public benefit outcomes has been adopted in the Oolloo (Northern Territory Government 2012). The quantity of water available for extraction for consumptive uses depends on whether the rainfall is above or below average rainfall.  

Part 2 of the Oolloo draft Plan identifies the outcomes which include:

  • That the significance of this water source to Indigenous people, including places of significance under traditional laws, customs and practices is recognised.
  • Water quality of this source is maintained at a level suitable for the beneficial uses including cultural uses.
  • Indigenous landowners have access to water from this water source for economic development purposes.
  • Ecosystem services provided by the water source for the benefit of uses including cultural values are recognised and protected.

The Draft Oolloo Plan includes provision for a monitoring program. It includes a study into cultural flows and values associated with the water source to identify sites of significance, their water requirements and the degree to which they have been met by the provisions of the Plan (Northern Territory Government 2012). The review of the draft Plan will consider the outcomes of monitoring program and research findings, in particular TRaCK projects in the Daly region. 

Aboriginal owned water licences

Aboriginal communities hold a number of licences under the Water Act in the Tindall Aquifer water plan area with a total volume of 411 ML/yr. These are for agriculture and industry purposes. The Kalano community has a high security licence and a NT Portion 1533 medium security licence, the Kalano community (Warlpiri) also holds a medium security licence (O'Donnell 2011).

c. Economic benefit

Surface water and groundwater resources within the Daly region are used for public water supply as well as private water supply for purposes such as agriculture and industry. For a summary of the water volumes allocated for various economic purposes within the region, including the actual volumes abstracted, refer to line items 32.3 and 33.3.