Groundwater dashboard delivers key advice to water users

Water users are better informed on groundwater availability thanks to a dashboard now available on the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s website.

The dashboard is an innovative tool allowing water users to track groundwater extractions against extraction limits in real time, and see the likelihood that access to groundwater may be reduced in the next water year.

Groundwater sources across NSW are subject to long-term average extraction limits, to make sure groundwater is used sustainably over time. It is important to measure and manage these key resources to ensure the health of the water table for generations to come.

When extractions by all water users go over legal limits, the department may need to reduce future access. This ensures extractions remain within the limits on average.

The dashboard displays data for each groundwater source, including the volume remaining for extraction before the limit is reached, and whether the limit is likely to be reached, triggering reductions in water access in the next year or years.

If the limit is reached, there are now two ways to reduce water extraction:

  • By reducing the amount of water going into water users’ accounts
  • By reducing the amount of water that can be taken or traded from accounts

The department can use one or a combination of the two methods.

Before deciding what approach to use, the department launched a series of public consultations, welcoming feedback from stakeholders on how to best limit extractions when necessary.

From November 2020 through March 2021, consultations were held in the seven groundwater source areas across NSW deemed most likely to go over their limits in 2020-2021: Great Artesian Basin Eastern Recharge, Lower Murrumbidgee Deep, Upper Macquarie, Lower Lachlan, Upper Namoi Zone 3, Upper Namoi Zone 5 and Upper Murray.

The department launched a dedicated website, video presentations on each groundwater source and held seven face-to-face sessions to inform the public. In addition to feedback received at sessions, the department received 80 written submissions.

Most submissions agreed that a transition period is needed, especially in areas where a new approach to managing groundwater extractions is being considered.

Most submissions also agreed that early advice on water availability is key, and the department’s groundwater extraction dashboard is a welcome tool delivering that information.

After widespread consultation and careful consideration of all submissions, the department will do the following:

  • On 1 July 2021, in groundwater sources where extraction limits are exceeded in 2020-2021 and action is needed to return extraction to the limit, we will reduce available water determinations for the 2021-22 water year.
  • By 1 July 2022, we will further consider stakeholder feedback and undertake additional consultation, before preparing and publishing the methods we will use to manage extraction to limits from 1 July 2022 onwards. The methods may differ in each groundwater source.

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