Ord
Administration

Surface water and groundwater

Water legislation

There are two legislative acts that establish the framework for managing and allocating water resources in the Ord region:

Under the Acts, the right to the use, flow and control of the water in watercourses, wetlands and underground water sources is vested in the Crown.

The Department of Water (WA) and the Department of Land Resource Management (NT) assist their respective ministers with the water resource management powers and functions set out in the Acts, including:

  • regulating the taking of water from prescribed water management areas; and
  • proclaiming water management areas across the State for surface water and groundwater.

Water management areas currently exist for the portion of the Ord region that lies within Western Australia, but not in the portion of the region within Northern Territory. The following surface water management areas were proclaimed by the Department of Water in the Ord region (as shown in Figure A1):

  • Ord River and Tributaries: the majority of that part of the Ord region located in Western Australia;
  • Ord Irrigation District; and
  • Wyndham Water Supply Surface Water Area (a small area in the northwest near Wyndham).


Figure A1  Map of surface water management areas in the Ord region
Figure A1  Map of surface water management areas in the Ord region


The Canning–Kimberley groundwater area was proclaimed by the Department of Water in the Ord region as shown in Figure A2.


Figure A2  Map of groundwater management areas in the Ord region
Figure A2  Map of groundwater management areas in the Ord region


Water management plans

The Department of Water prepares water management plans to specify how water resources are to be shared between competing needs in particular areas. Management plans establish sustainable diversion limits for water resources and define the water available for use. The limits are established to ensure that sufficient water is retained in the resources to protect aquatic ecosystems and meet specific social and cultural needs.

The Ord River Water Management Plan sets down sustainable diversion limits for entitlements from the Ord River. The plan also defines the environmental water provisions for the lower Ord River, and is set with consideration for ecological, economic and social impacts, including recognition of the cultural significance to the Miriuwung and Gajerrong peoples.

An updated draft Ord surface water management plan for the region has been prepared to manage the increasing demands on water in the region, particularly with the proposed irrigation expansion project (see Major water initiatives). Further information on the draft plan can be found at the Department of Water website.

Water management plans and allocation plans have not been developed for groundwater resources in the region due to the limited use of groundwater compared to the availability.


Environmental water management

Environmental water legislation

The Environmental Water Provisions Policy for Western Australia guides the Department of Water in water allocation planning and decision-making in relation to allocating water to the environment. The policy describes the role of environmental water regime requirements and environmental water provisions in setting the sustainable diversion limit of a water resource.


Environmental water provisions

Environmental water provisions are specified in water management plans and are expressed as a water regime requirement, i.e. a minimum flow regime to be achieved at key locations within the management area. Responsibility for achieving these flow regimes are placed on the storage operator and are defined in licence conditions as part of operating strategies.

The Ord River Water Management Plan defines environmental water provisions to protect the ecological condition of the lower Ord River. Environmental water provisions are set with consideration for ecological, economic and social impacts, including recognition of the cultural significance to the Miriuwung and Gajerrong peoples.

The Water Corporation has an obligation to operate water levels in Lake Argyle and Lake Kununurra and monitor releases to maintain specific flow rates in the lower Ord River. The Department of Water monitors flows at key locations in the lower Ord River to ensure that water regime requirements are met. 

Further information regarding environmental water provisions for the 2011–12 year is provided in the Environmental benefit note.


Organisations responsible for water management

The organisations with management responsibilities for regulating water resources and supplying water services in the region are shown in Table A1.


Table A1  Organisations responsible for water management in the Ord region

 Organisation

Role

Water resources managed

Department of Land Resource Management

  • plan, allocate and manage water resources and their use under the Water Act 1992
  • provide water services policy advice to government
  • Keep River

Department of Water

  • plan, allocate and manage water resources and their use under the powers of the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914
  • grant and regulate licences to divert water from water resources
  • provide water services policy advice to government
  • Ord River and tributaries
  • Groundwater resources

Ord Irrigation Cooperative

  • maintain water distribution assets
  • control the distribution of irrigation water
  • report to regulators (Department of Water)
  • Ord River Irrigation Area infrastructure

Water Corporation

  • provide a bulk water supply service to irrigators
  • provide drinking water in towns (and a limited number of nonpotable water supply services)
  • maintain infrastructure assets
  • manage water storages
  • report to regulators (Department of Water)
  • Lake Argyle
  • Lake Kununurra
  • Moochalabra Dam
  • Urban water supply infrastructure at Halls Creek, Wynham and Kununurra