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National Water Account 2017

Burdekin: Water management

The authority and framework for the administration of basic water rights and water entitlements (interim allocations, water licences, and water allocations) is governed by the the Water Act 2000, Water Regulation 2016 and the Water Plan (Burdekin Basin) 2007 prepared by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines. The water plan advances the sustainable management of all surface water in the Burdekin region. Operations manuals and water management protocol are used to implement strategies specified in the water plan.


For further information on the region's water management scroll down this page or click on the links below:




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 2016 which provides details on the procedures and fees associated with water access entitlements and trading.

Under Section 42 of the Water Act, the relevant minister may prepare a water plan for any part of Queensland to advance the sustainable management of water. Water plans may be prepared for, but are not limited to, the purposes listed under Section 43 of the Water Act. The Water plan (Burdekin Basin) 2007  is currently in place to manage all surface water in the Burdekin region and also includes some subartesian groundwater (managed as surface water) known to be in hydraulic connectivity with the surface water system.


Water management plans

The Department of Natural Resources and Mines prepares water plans 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.

Water management plans in place within the Burdekin region include:

The Water Plan (Burdekin Basin) 2007 was amended in December 2016 and contains the same information specified in the superseded Burdekin Basin water resource plan. It now also specifies water management areas, trading zones, as well as criteria for deciding water licence applications, which were previously contained in the superseded resource operations plan (ROP).

The ROP that commenced in December 2009 is no longer in effect. However, its provisions and components are taken to be a part of the water plan, water management protocol, resource operations licences and associated operations manuals.

The water management protocol contains water sharing and water allocation dealing rules for the permanent trading of supplemented and unsupplemented water in the plan area. It also contains seasonal water assignment rules for unsupplemented water. Supplemented rules for water supply schemes are now found in the scheme’s operations manual.

The Burdekin has two resource operations licences

These resource operations licences are both operated by SunWater. They contain information about the roles and responsibilities of the scheme operators. The operations manuals contain the day-to-day operational, water sharing and seasonal water assignment rules for supplemented water in each of these schemes to achieve the outcomes of the water plan.

The Lower Burdekin Water Board holds a distribution operations licence to distribute supplemented water in the plan area. The licence contains information about the roles and responsibilities of the licence holder to achieve the outcomes of the water plan.

The Burdekin GMA water–sharing rules are the rules prescribed under the Water Regulation 2016 for a water licence not managed under the protocol. The water–sharing rules describe the arrangements under which the access to underground water within the Burdekin GMA is managed. The Burdekin water-sharing rules apply to all underground water taken from the Burdekin GMA other than for stock and domestic purposes or a prescribed activity. The water–sharing rules also outline seasonal water assignment rules for the area.

The Giru Benefited Groundwater Area is also included within the Water plan (Burdekin Basin) 2007 as the subartesian water within this area is considered to be hydraulically connected to the surface water within the region. As such the Giru Benefited Groundwater Area is managed as surface water within the Burdekin Haughton water supply scheme.

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. Water plans 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 Protection (Water) Policy 2009.


Environmental water provisions

The environmental flow objectives in the plan 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 Water plan (Burdekin Basin) 2007.


Cultural water management

Almost all the basins in Queensland have water plans in place. Research indicates that no mechanism has been developed for effective Aboriginal 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 cultural significance.


Organisations responsible for water management

Organisations responsible for water management in the Burdekin region are shown in Table R1.


Table R1 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

Regulate and manage unsupplemented surface water and groundwater licenses;

Regulate the water sharing rules for supplemented water

Regulate and manage unsupplemented surface and groundwater

Regulate Resource Operating Licence holders

Regulate water supply scheme operators (supplemented water)

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 R5 in 'Geographic information')
Lower Burdekin Water
  • 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:

  • 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.