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National Water Account 2016

Sydney: Water access and use

More than 80% of the region's surface water entitlements are for urban water supply, primarily for residential use. Total water use increased marginally during the year, which follows the general trend of increasing water use over the last five years.

 


  

Water rights, entitlements, allocations and restrictions

Introduction

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

The 2016 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 2016 Account, the Bureau of Meteorology 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 Sydney region for the 201516 year have been classified as shown in the sections below.

 

Surface water rights

Surface water rights in the Sydney region during the 2015–16 year refer to surface water supply for:

  • urban water system—1,040,588 ML
  • individual users: allocated—159,390 ML
  • statutory rights—32,530 ML

Surface water rights for the urban water system relate to licences to divert water from storages and rivers to the Sydney region's urban water supply system. Details of these rights, as well as surface water rights for individual users and statutory rights, are available in the Water Sharing Plan for the Greater Metropolitan Region Unregulated River Water Sources and the Water Sharing Plan for the Kangaroo River Water Source. A share component is specified on a water access licence and is expressed as a unit share. The volume of water allocated to a licence holder is a result of an available water determination and the share component.

The volume of surface water allocations and diversions for the 2015–16 year compared with the previous four years are shown in Figure S9. The percentage shows the ratio of diversion to the water allocation.

 

Figure S9  Graph of surface water allocations and diversions in the Sydney region for the years ending 30 June, from 2012–2016
Figure S9 Surface water allocations and diversions in the Sydney region for the years ending 30 June, from 2012–2016

 

Surface water allocations for the urban water system remained unchanged from the previous year; however, diversions to the urban water system increased marginally from the previous year (Figure S9). Almost 95% of the total surface water allocation for the urban water system is for WaterNSW under the 'major utility (urban water)' water access licence category. It comprises diversions to the Sydney Water Corporation, as well as several councils in the region (see Figure S4 in the 'Water stores' note). The remainder of the surface water allocation for the urban water system comprises:

  • an additional volume of 20,075 ML for the Sydney Water Corporation to divert water from the Hawkesbury and lower Nepean rivers
  • 31,280 ML for local water utilities, including Goulburn Mulwaree Council, Lithgow City Council, Shoalhaven City Council, Wingecarribee Shire Council and Queanbeyan–Palerang Regional Council
  • 2,233 ML for domestic and stock (town water supply).

Surface water allocations for individual users were similar to the previous year; however, diversions to individual users decreased by approximately 18% from the previous year. This was due to comparatively less water diversion from Hawkesbury and Lower Nepean rivers by individual stock and domestic holders, and other lumped holders. Other lumped holders refers to an unregulated river access licence category issued for a wide range of purposes including irrigation, commercial, industry, and environment.

The water supply licences for allocated diversions for individual users are divided into licence entitlement categories (Figure S10).

 

Figure S10 Surface water allocation to individual users for each licence purpose for the 2015–16
Figure S10 Surface water allocation to individual users for each licence purpose for the 2015–16 year

 

Groundwater rights

Groundwater rights in the Sydney region during the 2015–16 year refer to:

  • individual users—71,246 ML
  • statutory rights—19,652 ML
  • local water utility and town water supply—1 ML

Groundwater rights for individual users refer to the aquifer licence category issued for a wide range of purposes including irrigation, commercial, industrial, and environmental by DPI Water.

Groundwater entitlements represent less than 7% of all water entitlements in the Sydney region. Actual groundwater extractions are not presented in the water accounting statements as they could not be estimated and there is currently no reliable quantification method.

 

Water restrictions

Water restrictions that applied to the Sydney region during the 2015–16 year are shown in Table S7 based on the responsible water agency. Further details about particular water restrictions can be found via the Bureau of Meteorology’s Water Restrictions website or the relevant agency's website.

 

Table S7 Water restrictions in the Sydney region during the 2015–16 year
AuthorityWater restrictionsData source
Goulburn Mulwaree CouncilGreen level throughout the 2015–16 year (permanent)
Lithgow City CouncilLevel 1 restrictions
Sydney Water CorporationWater Wise rules throughout the 2015–16 year (permanent)
Wingecarribee Shire CouncilWater Wise intiatives throughout the 2015–16 year (permanent)
Shoalhaven City Council (Shoalhaven Water)No restrictions

 

The water restrictions listed in Table S7 for 201516 are all base level or permanent water restrictions that are common practice for promoting water conservation and efficient use of water in the community. No additional conditions were imposed to restrict normal water demand. 

 

Water market activity

No water trading took place in the Sydney region during the 201516 year as trading provisions were not yet in place.

 

Water use

Economic benefit

Water resources within the Sydney region are primarily allocated and used for:

  • urban, rural and domestic purposes
  • industrial and commercial purposes (e.g. agriculture, irrigation, manufacturing and mining)
  • power generation.

For a summary of the water volumes allocated for various economic purposes within the region including the actual volumes abstracted, refer to Surface water rights and Groundwater rights above.

 

Social and cultural benefit

Water rights directly related to social and cultural benefits identified in the Sydney region were:

  • surface water: cultural basic right
  • surface water: riparian right
  • surface water: stock and domestic licences
  • groundwater: basic right.

Cultural basic right allows abstraction of water by anyone who holds native title with respect to water, as determined under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cwlth). In the Sydney region, the right was available to abstract water from the Kangaroo River water source. No cultural basic rights were estimated to occur in other areas of the region. The rights holders can take and use water for a range of needs without holding a water access licence. This includes accessing water for personal, domestic, and non-commercial communal purposes such as:

  • manufacturing traditional artefacts
  • hunting, fishing and gathering
  • recreation
  • cultural purposes
  • ceremonial purposes.

The riparian right makes provisions to abstract water to meet basic household requirements (non-commercial uses in and around the house and garden) and for watering of stock. This water cannot be used for irrigating crops or garden produce that will be sold or bartered, washing down machinery sheds or for intensive livestock operations.

Stock and domestic licences for surface water and groundwater basic rights allow the right holders to abstract water to meet basic requirements for household and stock purposes.

 

Environmental benefit

Water for environmental benefit in the Sydney region is provided according to three different environmental water management scenarios:

  • planned partly regulated surface water
  • planned unregulated surface water
  • held environmental water.

 

Environmental water legislation

The Water Management Act 2000 (NSW) makes provisions for the environmental health of the Sydney region's rivers and groundwater systems that are implemented as rules in water sharing plans and conditions of water access licences.


Environmental water provision: planned partly regulated (or 'supplemented') surface water

The dominant feature of environmental water management in this scenario is the planned environmental releases.

 

Environmental water provision

WaterNSW manages a large part of Sydney's water supply network. It has a Water Licence and Approvals Package which defines its water access rights and obligations including releases for environmental and other purposes, monitoring and reporting requirements in accordance with the provisions of the water sharing plan. The water licences and approvals apply to all storages and weirs within Sydney's water supply system (see Table S8 below).

Schedule 1 of WaterNSW's Water Licence and Approvals Package details environmental releases, monitoring and reporting requirements for the region.

 

Environmental water outcomes

The volume of water released to meet environmental flow obligations are specified in water management licences issued to WaterNSW. In addition to these flows, a portion of the treated wastewater discharged to streams by Sydney Water Corporation is specifically for environmental benefit. During the 2015–16 year, 10,837 ML of highly treated recycled water was released from the St Marys Advanced Water Recycling Plant to contribute to the healthy flow and water quality of the Hawkesbury-Nepean River.


Table S8 Environmental flows released during the the 2015–16 year within the Sydney region
Storage / WeirStreams benefiting from environmental flow releaseEnvironmental flow release (ML)
AvonAvon River down to its confluence with the Nepean River and the Nepean River below that down to Pheasants Nest Weir7,459
Broughtons Pass WeirCataract, Nepean and Hawkesbury rivers below the weir down to the sea4,574
CataractCataract River down to Broughtons Pass Weir10,914
CordeauxCordeaux River down to its confluence with the Avon River, and the Avon and Nepean rivers below that down to Pheasants Nest Weir5,763
Fitzroy FallsYarrunga Creek down to Lake Yarrunga (Tallowa Dam)9,313
Lake Burragorang (Warragamba Dam)Warragamba, Nepean and Hawkesbury rivers below Lake Burragorang (Warragamba Dam) down to the sea1,730
Lake Yarrunga (Tallowa Dam)Shoalhaven River below Lake Yarrunga (Tallowa Dam) down to the sea315,130
NepeanNepean River down to Pheasants Nest Weir13,101
Pheasants Nest WeirNepean and Hawkesbury rivers below the weir down to the sea6,025
WingecarribeeWingecarribee River down to Lake Burragorang (Warragamba Dam)1,098
WoronoraWoronora River down to its confluence with the Georges River, and the Georges River below that down to the sea4,165
Total379,2721
1Releases from some storages contributed to environmental flows from downstream storages/weirs. Releases from these downstream storages have been separately accounted for in the table.


Environmental water provision: planned unregulated surface water

In the Sydney region, water management under this provision occurs only at the unregulated river, Kangaroo River, by controlling the water access regime.

Environmental water provision

The Water Sharing Plan for the Kangaroo River Water Source states that water sharing arrangements contribute to the protection and rehabilitation of the Kangaroo River Water Source and its dependent ecosystems. Planned environmental water was identified and established. It is maintained according to the flow conditions, given as flow classes. In all flow classes, limits are imposed on the availability of water to protect natural river flows for fundamental ecological needs. DPI Water manages the day-to-day operation of the entitlements allocated from the Kangaroo River water source. The Kangaroo River water sharing plan area is shown in Figure S11.

 

Figure S11 The Kangaroo River water sharing plan area
Figure S11 The Kangaroo River water sharing plan area

 

Environmental water outcomes

The information related to volume of water released from unregulated surface water was not available.

 

Environmental water provision: held environmental water

Held environmental water in the Sydney region is held as banked environmental water in storages managed by WaterNSW.

Environmental water provisions

There are no environmental water provisions.

Environmental water outcomes

No environmental water releases were made during the 201516 year.

 

Bulk water supply agreement

WaterNSW has agreements to supply bulk water to different water utilities operating within the Sydney region as detailed in Table S9.

 

Table S9 Bulk water supply agreements between WaterNSW and other water utilities within the Sydney region
Water receiverAgreed volume/supply rateOther details
Shoalhaven City CouncilAs requested by Shoalhaven City Council subject to the limit stated in its water management licence.Water is diverted from Lake Yarrunga (Tallowa Dam) and Bendeela Pondage as specified in the bulk water supply agreement between two parties.
Sydney Water CorporationAs agreed between Sydney Water Corporation and WaterNSW.Water is diverted from supplier's storages and weirs to Sydney Water Corporation's water treatment plants, excluding North Richmond.
Wingecarribee Shire CouncilSubject to the limit stated in the Wingecarribee Shire Council's water management licence (40 ML/day).Water is diverted from Wingecarribee Reservoir as specified in the bulk water supply agreement between two parties.