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

The Commission is conducting a review of the Barwon-Darling water sharing plan.

Barwon-Darling Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2012 (Plan map)

Submissions to the review of the above plan have now closed. The Commission will consider submissions, provided for the purpose of the review, prior to developing recommendations to the Minister.

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 at the same time as the public exhibition of the draft water resource plan.

The final report will be made available on the Commission’s website, ensuring transparency of findings and recommendations.

When does the Barwon-Darling water sharing plan expire?

The Barwon-Darling water sharing plan is due to expire in July 2022. 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 kills in the Darling River 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 will the review focus on?

The review will focus 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 will also identify whether changes to these provisions are warranted.

Water source connectivity will also be a key focus of the review in recognition of the connected nature of the waterways of the northern Basin.

Evaluation questions include:
  1. To what extent do you feel the water sharing plan is meeting its objectives and aligns with the objectives of the Water Management Act 2000?
  2. Can the water sharing plan better contribute to environmental outcomes? If so, how?
  3. Can the water sharing plan better contribute to social outcomes? If so, how?
  4. Can the water sharing plan better contribute to economic outcomes? If so, how?
  5. Do you have any other comments that you would like the Commission to consider?

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.

Over the course of its review, the Commission will also engage with Government agencies responsible for water reforms, including but not limited to, better management of environmental water, floodplain harvesting and metering, and will consider these reforms in developing its advice.

Reviews of coastal water sharing plans

In 2018-19, 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.