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National Water Account 2017

Daly: Water management

The Northern Territory Water Act 1992 establishes the framework for managing water resources in the Daly region. In accordance with the Act, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources developed the Water Allocation Plan: Tindall Limestone Aquifer (Katherine), which was declared in 2009 and defines how water is shared between the various needs in this management area.


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 Northern Territory Water Act 1992 establishes the framework for managing and allocating water resources in the Daly region.

Under the Act, all water in the Territory is vested in the Crown. Provisions of the Act include:

  • declaring water control districts
  • declaring water allocation plans
  • granting water abstraction licences
  • granting waste discharge licences
  • granting bore construction permits.

The Act provides the legal framework for the allocation of water to various declared beneficial uses including agriculture, aquaculture, public water supply, stock and domestic use, and industry, while ensuring that adequate provisions are made to maintain cultural and environmental water requirements.

The Act allows for the declaration of water allocation plans within water control districts, ensuring water is equitably managed to preserve quality of life and the integrity of the water dependent ecosystems in the region.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources assists the Minister with the water resource management powers and functions set out in the Act, including:

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


Water allocation plans

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources develops and implements water allocation plans in the Daly region. Water allocation plans are in place for ten years and are reviewed after five years.

They include:

  • the long-term sustainable limit of an aquifer
  • the volume of water that may be abstracted each year for individual and public water supply and environmental, recreational and cultural benefit
  • how licence entitlements may be granted
  • rules for water trading.

A water allocation plan details the area and water resource to which the plan applies as well as the vision, objectives, strategies, and performance indicators of the plan. It also sets limits to the availability of water assigned to each beneficial use, rules for managing licences, and the rules for water trading. Further information on water allocation planning in the region can be found at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources website.

The only water allocation plan currently applicable to the Daly region and within the Daly–Roper water control district is the Water Allocation Plan: Tindall Limestone Aquifer (Katherine), which was declared in 2009. A second water allocation plan for the region—the Water Allocation Plan: Oolloo Aquifer—is still at draft stage. The extent of these plan areas within the Daly region are shown in Figure R7.


Figure R7 Map of water allocation plan areas in the Daly region
Figure R7 Water allocation plan areas in the Daly region


Environmental water management

Environmental water legislation

Water allocation planning in the Daly region is conducted in accordance with section 22B of the Water Act 1992. Under this section, the right to the use, flow, and control of the water in watercourses, wetlands, and underground water sources is vested in the Crown.


Environmental water provisions

Water control districts can be proclaimed in areas where there is a need for close management of water resources. This is to avoid stressing groundwater reserves, river flows, and wetlands. Legislation in water control districts covers all aspects of sustainable water resource management, including the investigation, use, control, protection, and allocation of water resources. The Daly region sits in the Daly–Roper water control district. More information on water control districts is available from the Northern Territory Government website.

Environmental water provisions are specified in the water allocation plans. Environmental water requirements have been determined at three key locations along the Daly River by the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment (2004), which provides recommendations for the maintenance of minimum streamflows to protect the pig-nosed turtle and other aquatic flora and fauna and to ensure that the water requirements of riparian vegetation can be supplied at times of extreme water stress. All current and future water allocation plans, along with any licensing decisions for groundwater extraction and surface water diversion within the Daly River catchment, will be made to ensure these environmental water requirements are met.

In the absence of known water requirements and specific site locations that are important for recreational activities and Aboriginal cultural purposes, the water allocation plans make the following assumptions:

  • The annual abstraction limit will provide protection to riverine and riparian ecosystems and will also maintain water flow to places that are valued by Aboriginal people for cultural purposes. These flows are expected to be similar to those that would have occurred without any abstraction, as predicted through hydrological modelling.
  • Despite the paragraph above, it is recognised that cultural flow requirements may not align entirely with environmental requirements and any research that becomes available that assists in the identification of cultural flow requirements will be considered as part of the review process of the Oolloo plan, pending its declaration.
  • The annual extraction limit will also maintain opportunities for recreational activities associated with the water source, including fishing, tourism, swimming, camping and aesthetics.


Cultural water management

The Water Act 1992 allows for the beneficial uses of a water control district to be specifically declared. Beneficial uses include agriculture, aquaculture, public water supply, industry, rural stock, and domestic. They also include a cultural beneficial use which is water that meets aesthetic, recreational, and cultural needs. This can include both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal needs.

The Act does not prioritise between the different beneficial uses, and therefore cultural and environmental uses are just one of a number of uses to which water can be allocated.

Water allocations for non-consumptive use, including environmental and other public benefits, are not licensed. The non-consumptive beneficial uses are protected by limiting the allocation to consumptive uses.

Of relevance to the provision of water for cultural purposes is the beneficial use of water for the environment. This is water provided 'to maintain the health of aquatic ecosystems'. This is because the plans assume that the cultural beneficial uses will be met by providing water for the beneficial use of the environment (Jackson 2009).


Organisations responsible for water management

There are three main bodies responsible for managing the Daly region's water resources:

  • Department of Environment and Natural Resources
  • Department of Mines and Energy
  • Power and Water Corporation.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is responsible for drafting and reviewing all water allocation plans in the Daly region. This task is undertaken by delegates of the Water Resources Division. The Controller of Water Resources in the department is delegated under the Water Act 1992 to independently make allocation and restriction determinations and announcements and to work closely with other areas within the Water Resources Division to ensure timely and efficient implementation of operational water resource administration.

The Department of Mines and Energy is responsible for administering water use by mines and enforcing and assessing compliance with mine management plans and administering discharge licences for industry.

The Power and Water Corporation is responsible for providing water and sewerage services to the Northern Territory. Within the Daly region, water supplies and sewage treatment in the main centres of Katherine and Pine Creek are provided by the Water Services Division of the Power and Water Corporation, while the Remote Operations Division provide the water and sewerage needs of several remote communities in the Daly region.