Submission guide for consultation on Floodplain Harvesting for the NSW Border Rivers WSP

NSW Border Rivers is the first valley in NSW where floodplain harvesting will be licensed. Follow our table of questions and answers to get your submission in.

Make a submission by midnight, Monday November 30!

Floodplain harvesting is the practice of altering the landscape on private property to capture overland flows during massive rain events. You might have seen pictures in the media where levee banks block off creeks or private roads are constructed so that they capture vast amounts of water before it enters the river channel. 

NSW has finally started the process to regulate this practice after massive political pressure. Get a submission in TONIGHT to have your say!

There's more info on the floodplain harvesting rules being proposed for the NSW Border Rivers Water Sharing Plan here.

Click here and follow our guide to put in your submission: https://app.smartsheet.com/b/form/b1ed2a8d358d498188268422a35b4814

Closes: Midnight, Monday 30th November

Question Suggested Answer Reasoning Background Info
3. Do you support the proposed 5-year account management rules?

 NO

A year on year account management is more transparent, can better account for the amount of water available and manage flows so that floods and low to medium flows can benefit the whole system, including downstream users and environment.  
4. What initial Available Water Determination would you support? 

Less than 1 ML per unit share

A less than 1 ML per unit share (ie 100% of allocation per annum accounting rules) with no carryover is the best way to manage the detrimental environmental and socio-economic impacts of floodplain harvesting on other communities.

Unlimited carryover would see a scenario where floodplain harvesting would capture the majority of all flood events, and prevent floods from reaching downstream floodplains, events which are critical for the health of the Barka-Darling and its tributaries.

NSW DPIE proposal:

Proposed account-management rules for floodplain harvesting (regulated river) access licences in the NSW Border Rivers Regulated River Water Source:

  1. Account limit: 5 ML per unit share
  2. Carryover: unlimited, subject to the account limit.
 
5. Do you support available water determinations being varied as a method of adaptive management?

 YES 

Floodplain harvesting regulation is being brought in to an already over allocated system. The impacts of historical floodplain harvesting are extreme. Taking a conservative approach at the initial phase of regulation is needed to understand the level of current floodplain harvesting and impact of these actions.

I support a water determination of less than 1 ML per unit share in the first water year licenses are issued. Available water determinations being varied as a method of adaptive management

Over-allocation must be rectified from the commencement of licensing. Introducing a maximum 1 ML unit share in the first year would provide an opportunity for the Darling River and tributaries to recover from over-allocation of over-bank flows, facilitate connectivity, and enable a greater level of equity between water users across valleys, which has previously clearly favoured those undertaken floodplain harvesting.

NSW DPIE proposal:

Proposed available water determination rules for floodplain harvesting (regulated river) access licences in the NSW Border Rivers Regulated River Water Source:

  1. An available water determination, from 1 ML per unit share to 5 ML per unit share, in the first water year licences are issued, with the precise value subject to consultation outcomes.
  2. An available water determination of 1 ML per unit share every year after the first year (or a lesser or greater amount to ensure compliance with the extraction limit or as a result of updating the extraction limit estimates).
6. Do you support the proposed trading zones and the restriction of trade into those zones?

 NO

Currently, there is inadequate information available on proposed trade zone and I cannot support trading without further information. The Department must provide greater clarity on proposed trade zones and re-open consultation on this topic.

I support the requirement to restrict permanent trade for the reasons stated in the consultation paper and oppose permanent trade of licences as proposed currently.

NSW DPIE proposal:

Proposed permanent trade rules for floodplain harvesting (regulated river) access licences in the NSW Border Rivers Regulated River Water Source:

  1. Establishing a trading zone that reflects management zones A and D in the Floodplain Management Plan for the Border Rivers Valley Floodplain 2020 (see Figure 2). NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment | INT20/86681 | 7 NSW Border Rivers: Floodplain harvesting in water sharing plans
  2. No nomination of works located in the established trading zone by a floodplain harvesting (regulated river) access licence.
7. Do you support proposed event-based restrictions under section 324 to contribute to downstream targets?

 NO

The proposed flow targets do not provide connectivity for the length of the Darling River and its tributaries. The proposed access rules should be altered to consider:

A flow target at Wentworth: Currently the Barwon Darling water sharing plan culminates at Wentworth. The Barka-Darling river is an essential river that almost never dried up historically and must have a flow target at the end of system. Connectivity between Northern and Southern Basins are essential for balance across the entire Murray-Darling.

Storage target at Menindee: A 2 year planning period, ie a minimum of 300-480GL of water in the top two Menindee Lakes (Lakes Wetherill and Pamamaroo) to supply of critical water to the environment and communities on the Barwon-Darling and Lower Darling. This target aligns with the NSW Government’s own targets for providing short- to medium-term water security for the Lower Darling.

NSW DPIE proposal:

Proposed approach for floodplain harvesting (regulated river) access licences in the NSW Border Rivers Regulated River Water Source:

  1. If required, a Section 324 order will be placed on floodplain harvesting (regulated river) access licences to help meet flow targets specified for the Barwon–Darling Unregulated River Water Source when the following occurs:
  1. there is uncontrolled flow in one or more sections of the water source
  2. a supplementary water announcement has been made
  3. supplementary water access is restricted to ensure outflows help meet flow targets specified for the Barwon–Darling Unregulated River Water Source.
8. Do you support the proposed amendment provisions?

 YES

I support provisions that allow for strengthening regulation on floodplain harvesting as the monitoring, measurement and scientific evidence is improved. This regulation in coming into an already over-allocated system, any later changes to licensing required to maintain environment of socio-economics downstream, must be able to occur without triggering compensation.

Floodplain harvesters have had access to increasingly vast volumes of water, unchecked and un-regulated, compensation should be directed to communities and environment that have endured the impacts of unchecked floodplain harvesting. Not individuals that have benefited from lack of regulatory frameworks.

NSW DPIE proposal:

Proposed amendment provisions for floodplain harvesting (regulated river) access licences in the NSW Border Rivers Regulated River Water Source:

An amendment provision to allow for introducing access rules:

  1. to allow flexibility should environmental flows be targeted to create overbank flow or
  2. in response to monitoring, evaluation and reporting outcomes of environmental benefits from licensing floodplain harvesting or
  3. in response to improved understanding of the influence of floodplain harvesting on downstream flows.

 

Feedback on specific topics:

Modelling: there is a high number of uncertainties due to lack of key data including measured volume of take and measurement of return flows from floodplains to river channels, limited data on rainfall runoff, poor accuracy of river gauges,

Predicted environmental outcomes: the return of approx. 6 GL of water to the environment is not sufficient to mitigate the impacts of past FPH take or to bring the Border Rivers aquatic and wetland ecosystems back to health. Natural floodwater flows are essential for lateral & longitudinal connectivity. The rainfall runoff exemption is estimated to be approx. 5.8 GL – equivalent volume to flows to be returned to the environment

Floodplain Harvesting Measurement: It is critical that FPH is fully monitored and measured before new licences are granted. This will improve the model data.

Other information provided by the department: Only a summary of the peer review of reports was provided in early November, after the commencement of the public exhibition of documents.

There are conflicting volumes of foregone diversions across the various reports. The modelled downstream effects shows that flows to the Darling may only increase by 0.1%

The draft Border Rivers Regional Water Strategy (RWS) states that 19% of long term flows to Menindee Lakes comes from Border Rivers – this is not discussed in the downstream report.

Other issues:  The RWS identifies that FPH is 30% of all water take in the region. The proposed volume to be licenced does not address this issue.

There are 33 hotspot structures on the Border Rivers floodplain. There is no reference to these being removed or excluded from FPH licencing.

The proposed rules around 324 order are not supported – there should be FPH access announcements, the same as for supplementary licence access.

Do not support trade of FPH licences. There needs to be more information about proposed trading zone restrictions and protection of ecological values.

 

 

Guide produced with thanks to the Inland Rivers Network and Katharine McBride from Tolarno station