Water sharing plan reviews

Reviewing water sharing plans to identify opportunities to improve water sharing provisions and associated outcomes




The purpose of water sharing plans is to prescribe how water is managed, firstly to provide for the environment and also to support social and economic outcomes. These plans typically apply for a period of ten years.

The Commission has a statutory role under Section 43A of the Water Management Act 2000 to undertake independent reviews of water sharing plans approaching expiry and report its findings to the Minister for Water. These reviews help to identify opportunities to improve water sharing provisions and associated outcomes. The Minister considers the Commission’s report before deciding to extend or make a new water sharing plan.

Government responds to Murray, Lower Murray-Darling and Intersecting Streams unregulated water sharing plan reviews

The Minister has responded to recent water sharing plan reviews by the Commission and the NSW Government has publicly announced that the following water sharing plans will be extended for two years in order to be remade:

  • Water Sharing Plan for the Murray Unregulated River Water Sources 2011
  • Water Sharing Plan Lower Murray-Darling Basin Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2011
  • Water Sharing Plan Intersecting Streams Unregulated River Water Sources 2011.

This follows the Commission’s reviews of the plans, as required under Section 43A of the Water Management Act 2000.

The Commission assessed the extent to which provisions in the plans contributed to achieving environmental, social, cultural and economic outcomes, and identified where changes to provisions are warranted.

The Commission reviewed the Intersecting Streams and Lower Murray-Darling plans together – which cover the length of the Baaka/Darling River in NSW – to holistically assess issues in the Baaka/Darling.

The Commission's reviews found several opportunities to improve outcomes that justify replacing the plans. The Commission recommended the plans be extended for two years to allow time to undertake the data collection, analysis, and consultation required for the remakes. In addition to this overall recommendation, the Commission's reports include several specific recommendations to improve plan performance as part of the remakes.

Government responds to Commission's review of South Coast water sharing plans

The Government has publicly announced that water sharing plans for the NSW South Coast region will be extended for two years in order to be remade.

The Commission reviewed the following plans for the NSW South Coast region, as required under Section 43A of the Water Management Act 2000:

  • Water Sharing Plan for the Bega and Brogo Rivers Area Regulated, Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2011
  • Water Sharing Plan for the Murrah-Wallaga Area Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2010
  • Water Sharing Plan for the Towamba River Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources 2010

The Commission assessed the extent to which provisions in the Plans have contributed to achieving environmental, social, cultural and economic outcomes, and identified where changes to provisions are warranted.

The plan areas were significantly affected by bushfires in 2019-20 after experiencing a severe drought. It was evident from engagement during this review that the impacts of these events are far reaching and ongoing for communities and the catchments.

The Commission identified several examples of good practice and positive outcomes in this review, as well as several opportunities to improve outcomes that justify replacing the Plans (see report).

Review of inland water sharing plans

Submissions for the following inland water sharing plans have now closed and the Commission received the following submissions.

North Western Unregulated and Fractured Rock Water Sources 2011

NSW Border Rivers Unregulated River Water Sources 2012

Castlereagh River Unregulated Water Sources 2011

The NSW Border Rivers and Castlereagh River water sharing plans fall within the Murray-Darling Basin. They were amended in 2020 as part of the development of Water Resource Plans to remove alluvial water sources. These groundwater sources and associated provisions were moved to other water sharing plans that will be reviewed in the future. The Commission’s review will therefore focus on surface water sources to which the currently legislated plans apply. However, if the Commission identifies issues of relevance to the groundwater resources removed from the original water sharing plans, for example in relation to surface-groundwater connectivity, the Commission will note this in its review and indicate it should be considered in the review of the relevant groundwater plan.

The Commission will take all submissions into consideration when preparing its advice to Government.

Plans being reviewed

The Commission is reviewing water sharing plans for the following water sources:

  • Castlereagh Unregulated Water Sources
  • Northwestern Unregulated and Fractured Rock Water Sources
  • NSW Border Rivers Unregulated Water Sources