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National Water Account 2015

Burdekin: Administration

Spillway at the Burdekin Falls Dam, North Queensland © CSIRO

Surface water and groundwater management

Water legislation

The Queensland Water Act 2000 (Water Act) provides the authority for the administration of basic water rights and water entitlements (interim allocations, water licences, and water allocations) in Queensland. The Water Act is supported by the Water Regulation 2002 which provides details on the procedures and fees associated with water access entitlements and trading.

Under Section 38 of the Water Act, the relevant minister may prepare a water resource plan (WRP) for any part of Queensland to advance the sustainable management of water. WRPs may be prepared for, but are not limited to, the purposes listed under s. 38 (3) of the Water Act. A WRP is currently in place to manage all surface water in the Burdekin region and also includes some subartesian groundwater known to be in hydraulic continuity with the surface water system.


Water management plans

The Department of Natural Resources and Mines prepares WRPs to specify how water resources are to be shared between competing needs in particular areas. The plans are developed through extensive community consultation and scientific assessment to ensure the right balance between economic, social and environmental demands on the water resource.

The Department of Natural Resources and Mines also prepares resource operation plans (ROPs). These are used to implement the outcomes and strategies specified in the WRP. The ROP also specifies the day-to-day rules and management arrangement for water users and infrastructure operators.

Water management plans in place within the Burdekin region include:

  • Burdekin Basin WRP
  • Burdekin Basin ROP
  • policy on water sharing for the Burdekin GMA.

The Burdekin Basin WRP was approved in August 2007 and contains six defined water sub-catchment areas: Lower Burdekin, Haughton River, Bowen River, Broken River, Belyando–Suttor Rivers, Cape–Campaspe Rivers and the Upper Burdekin.

The Giru Benefited Groundwater Area is also included within the Burdekin Basin WRP as the subartesian water within this area and is considered to be hydraulically connected to the surface water within the region. The Burdekin Basin ROP was finalised in December 2009.

The Burdekin GMA water–sharing rules are prescribed under Water Regulation 2002 for a water licence not managed under a ROP. The water–sharing rules describe the arrangements under which the access to water within a GMA is managed.

More information on these water management plans for the Burdekin region is provided at the Department of Natural Resources and Mines website.

Groundwater is currently regulated in three subartesian areas: the Greater Western (in western sections of the Cape–Campaspe and the Suttor–Belyando subcatchments); the Highlands subartesian area (Suttor–Belyando area), and the Burdekin subartesian area (lower Burdekin). The balance of the catchment is unregulated for groundwater.


Environmental water management

Environmental water legislation

The Water Act covers water for the environment. WRPs are produced in accordance with the Water Act and must establish environmental flow objectives and ecological outcomes and consider environmental values listed in the Environmental (Water) Protection Policy 2009.


Environmental water provisions

The environmental flow objectives in a WRP area are met through rules governing storage releases and limiting abstractions. Its aim is to retain various temporal flow characteristics at different nodes along the rivers. Environmental top-up releases from storages are required to ensure that environmental flow objectives are met. The volume required for release will vary depending upon the environmental flow objectives and flow conditions. Various performance indicators are used for assessing environmental flow objectives, as described in the Environmental benefit note.

More details on specific environmental flow provisions can be found in the Burdekin Basin WRP.


Cultural water management

Almost all the basins in Queensland have WRPs in place. Research indicates that no mechanism has been developed for effective Indigenous input into the water-planning process; however, traditional water users are protected through the provision of environmental flows, and special protection for water holes of Indigenous significance is covered in some WRPs, such as that for the Burnett basin (Duff et al. 2010).


Organisations responsible for water management

Organisations responsible for water management in the Burdekin region are shown in Table C1.


Table C1 Organisations responsible for water management in the Burdekin region
 OrganisationRoleWater resources managed
Department of Natural Resources and Mines
  • water resource planning
  • managing and allocating water resources
  • policy advice to government
Department of Energy and Water Supply
  • regulate water service providers
  • manage surface water storages
  • deliver bulk water to urban retailers
  • manage the water supply schemes
all storages (see Figure C5 in 'Physical information')
Lower Burdekin Water (formerly the North and South Burdekin water boards)
  • manage the water infrastructure associated with the water supply schemes
  • undertake activities to replenish the groundwater store in the Burdekin delta aquifer
Burdekin Local Management Arrangements Interim Board
  • investigate local management arrangements for SunWater assets
Queensland Water Directorate (Qldwater)
  • Central advisory and advocacy body within Queensland's urban water industry working with members to provide safe, secure, and sustainable water services to Queensland communities

Local councils:

  • Townsville City
  • Mackay City
  • Whitsunday Regional
  • Burdekin Shire
  • Charters Towers Regional
  • Barcaldine Regional
  • Isaac Regional
  • provide the distribution and retail of potable water to customers
  • collect and treat wastewater
Paluma Dam (Townsville City Council) and Charters Towers Weir (Charters Towers Regional Council)

1If local management arrangements are implemented the Giru and Val Bird weirs may be transferred to the
local board.


Other councils that have part of their administrative area within the Burdekin region include: Etheridge Shire Council, Tablelands Regional Council, Flinders Shire Council, and Hinchinbrook Shire Council.

In 1988, the Townsville–Thuringowa Water Supply Board (NQWater) completed construction of a pumping station and pipeline from the Haughton Balancing Storage to the headwaters of the Ross River Dam near Townsville. Townsville City Council merged with Thuringowa City in 2008, and Townsville City Council now manages the water supply infrastructure formerly managed by NQWater, Townsville, and Thuringowa city councils.