2012 water sharing plan reviews

Water sharing plans establish rules for allocating water to balance the needs of all water users, including the environment. These plans apply for a period of ten years from their commencement.

At the end of a plan's term, the Minister responsible for the Water Management Act 2000 may decide to make a new replacement plan or extend a water sharing plan for a further ten years. A report provided by the Commission under s.43A of the Water Management Act 2000 informs this decision.

Review of 2004 water sharing plans

The Commission reviewed 31 water sharing plans that commenced in 2004 and were due for replacement or extension in 2014, including 14 plans in the Murray Darling Basin and 17 plans in coastal regions (see map).

The Commission provided a final report to the Minister in June 2013.

The report advised the Minister on:

  • the extent of the water sharing plans’ contribution to the state-wide Standard and targets for natural resource management in the relevant region
  • whether changes to water sharing plan provisions could achieve greater alignment of water and natural resource management planning.

Three key principles guided our review —better regional outcomes, integrated and efficient governance and evidence-based decision making. Our review also aimed to promote an integrated approach to landscape management, where water is part of the system contributing to landscape health, productivity and resilience.

We advised the Minister that:

  • there was a weight of evidence indicating that plan replacement would benefit both consumptive users and the environment, particularly for plans that do not fall within the Murray Darling Basin
  • if Government intended to implement the Murray Darling Basin Plan, then the replacement of plans within the Basin should be deferred until such a time that the replacement plans can meet Basin Plan requirements to avoid duplicated planning and engagement processes.

In addition to our report, the Minister also received advice from the then NSW Office of Water. The focus of the Office of Water's advice was different to that of the Commission, reflecting the different role of the agency. The Office of Water was interested in whether plan rules are appropriate, practical to implement and whether there are any ways to improve the plan outcomes.

The Minister made a decision about the replacement or extension of the 2004 water sharing plans. Details about the way forward for each of the 31 plans can be found on the Office of Water website.

All future work related to the replacement or extension of the 2004 water sharing plans is being undertaken by the then NSW Office of Water.


The Commission received submissions from licence holders, industry and environment groups, members of local communities, and government stakeholders. We would like to thank all those who participated in our review process by making a submission.

A summary of the issues raised in submissions is available here.

The table (below) provides access to the submissions received. For completeness, this includes submissions directed solely to the NSW Office of Water’s review (marked with *).

Submissions received (2012-2013 reviews)

Area Water sharing plan Submission
Border Rivers-Gwydir Catchment Management Authority (CMA) Gwydir Regulated River Water Source
Rocky Creek, Cobbadah, Upper Horton and Lower Horton Water Sources
Tenterfield Creek Water Source
More than one plan in the region
Central West CMA Castlereagh River above Binnaway Water Source
Macquarie and Cudgegong Regulated Rivers Water Source
More than one plan in the region
Hawkesbury-Nepean CMA Kulnura Mangrove Mountain Groundwater Sources
Hunter-Central Rivers CMA Hunter Regulated River Water Source
Jilliby Jilliby Creek Water Source
Karuah River Water Source
Ourimbah Creek Water Source
Tomago Tomaree Stockton Groundwater Sources
Wybong Creek Water Source
More than one plan in the region
Lachlan CMA Lachlan Regulated River Water Source
Mandagery Creek Water Source
More than one plan in the region
Murray CMA NSW Murray and Lower Darling Regulated Rivers Water Sources
Upper Billabong Water Source
Murrumbidgee CMA Adelong Creek Water Source
Murrumbidgee Regulated River Water Source
Tarcutta Creek Water Source
Namoi CMA Phillips Creek, Mooki River, Quirindi Creek and Warrah Creek Water Sources
Upper Namoi and Lower Namoi Regulated River Water Sources
More than one plan in the region
Northern Rivers CMA Alstonville Plateau Groundwater Sources
Apsley River Water Source
Commissioners Waters Water Source
Coopers Creek Water Source
Dorrigo Plateau Surface Water Source and Dorrigo Basalt Groundwater Source
Stuarts Point Groundwater Source
Toorumbee Creek Water Source
Upper Brunswick River Water Source
Southern Rivers CMA Kangaroo River Water Source
Wandella Creek Water Source
More than one or unspecified More than one or unspecified