2018-2019 Water sharing plan reviews

Water sharing plans establish rules for sharing water between water users and the environment.

These plans typically apply for a period of ten years. At the end of this period, the Minister for Water may decide to replace or extend a plan.

Under s.43A of the Water Management Act 2000, the Commission is to provide advice to the Minister on:

  • the extent that water sharing provisions have contributed to environmental, social and economic outcomes
  • whether changes to those provisions are warranted.

Review of Water Sharing Plan for the Barwon-Darling Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2012

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Draft report

The Commission has released a draft report (the Draft Report) for the review of the Water Sharing Plan for the Barwon-Darling Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2012 (the Plan) for public comment.

The Commission engaged Professor Fran Sheldon of Griffith University to provide technical advice for the review of the Barwon-Darling water sharing plan. This technical advice has been peer reviewed and finalised.

What does the Draft Report contain?

The Draft Report presents the findings and recommendations from the Commission’s statutory review of the Plan. It focuses on the extent to which the water sharing provisions in the Plan have materially contributed to the achievement of, or the failure to achieve, environmental, social and economic outcomes. It also identifies where changes are warranted.

Draft Report now closed for comment

The Commission invited stakeholders to comment on the Draft Report, including on the evidence base for findings and recommendations. The submission period has now closed and the Commission will consider all submissions in finalising its report.

What happens next?

After considering submissions, the Commission will finalise the report for delivery to the Minister for Water in September 2019.

Submissions - Barwon-Darling review

Below are the non-confidential submissions.

What is a water sharing plan?

Water sharing plans are statutory instruments that set out rules for how water is shared across a range of water users. This includes water for the environment, communities, cultural purposes, commercial requirements (e.g. irrigation) and utilities (town water needs). These plans were prepared by the then NSW Department of Industry - Water.

Why are independent reviews of these plans important?

Independent reviews are an opportunity to better understand where improvements can be made to ensure that the environmental, social and economic needs are being met.

They provide the Minister with evidence to inform a decision to make a new plan or extend an existing plan when a water sharing plan approaches expiry.

The draft report will be made available for consultation in mid year, prior to the public exhibition of the draft water resource plan.

The final report will be made available on the Commission’s website, once the Minister has considered its advice.

When does the Barwon-Darling water sharing plan expire?

The Barwon-Darling water sharing plan is due to expire in July 2023. However, it will be updated as part of the water resource plan process required under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Why is a review of the water sharing plan occurring now?

The Commission was requested by the then Minister for Regional Water, with support of the Premier, to bring forward its review of the Barwon-Darling water sharing plan. The letter from the Minister is available here.

Recent fish death in the Darling River, just downstream of the Plan area, and high public interest in the way that this water sharing plan is operating are key drivers for early commencement of the review.

The review is a statutory requirement under the Water Management Act 2000.

What does the review focus on?

The review focuses on the extent to which the water sharing provisions in the plan have materially contributed to the achievement of, or the failure to achieve, environmental, social and economic outcomes. It provides recommendations on changes to these provisions that will help better achieve outcomes.

How does this review fit with the Water Resource Plan process and other water reforms underway?

The review is being coordinated with the water resource plan process being progressed by the NSW Department of Industry - Water. It will avoid duplication of effort and will inform the water resource plan process, where possible.

During the review, the Commission engaged with Government agencies responsible for water reforms, including but not limited to, better management of environmental water, floodplain harvesting and metering, and considered these reforms in developing its advice.

Reviews of coastal water sharing plans

In 2019, the Commission will review the following water sharing plans.

The first two plans being reviewed are those for the Coffs Harbour Area and the Central Coast. Submissions to the review of these plans have now closed. The Commission will consider submissions, provided for the purpose of the review, prior to developing recommendations to the Minister.

More information, such as water source rules and background documents, is available on the NSW Department of Industry website.