WaterNSW is responsible for managing groundwater in NSW. To protect this resource, there are requirements on accessing and drilling for groundwater.
Landholders considering accessing groundwater must first obtain a water supply work approval from WaterNSW before any drilling or bore construction takes place. For more information, go to work approvals.
Landholders must engage a driller with a NSW driller's licence of the correct class to construct the bore.
Requirements for drilling for groundwater
Drillers are required to obtain a drilling licence from the relevant state or territory in which they intend to operate.
Drillers must sight the landholder's current work approval before drilling a bore and must comply with any relevant conditions.
It is a mandatory condition that the driller constructs the bore to the minimum requirements set out in the Minimum Construction Requirements for Water Bores in Australia guidelines, available from the Australian Drilling Industry Association.
The Minimum Construction Requirements (MCR) for Water Bores in Australia edition 4 will will be in effect as of 1 September 2020.
- All works initiated post 1 September 2020 (including the licensing, planning, quotation and
construction stages) will need to be compliant with MCR edition 4.
- Any work initiated prior to 1 September 2020 (including the licensing, planning, quotation and
construction stages) will carry on compliance with the current MCR edition 3.
WaterNSW recommends conducting pumping tests as described in the Australian Standard AS 2368 — 1990 Test Pumping of Water Wells. A pump test will allow determination of the safe yield, optimum pump rate and pump depth for the bore.
Form A – Particulars of completed work
After the bore has been constructed, the driller must complete Form A – Particulars of completed works providing location and construction details of the bore, as well as information on the quality of the bore water. The landholder must send the completed Form A to WaterNSW, together with any further information required in the water supply work approval, within two months of completion of the bore.
- Form A – Particulars of completed work (XLSX, 173.86 KB)
- Form A – Particulars of completed work (PDF, 546.22 KB)
- Form A – Explanatory notes (PDF, 775.72 KB)
Applying for a NSW Driller's Licence
- Application form for NSW Driller's Licence (PDF, 1129.36 KB)
- Module A - NSW Drillers Licence Examination (PDF, 737.85 KB)
- Water Act 1912 extracts (PDF, 509.28 KB)
Poor drilling practices and poorly constructed or failed bores can cause and contribute to groundwater misuse, wastage and degradation through uncontrolled bore flow or contamination of aquifers via the borehole or annulus around the bore casing. Materials and surface water can also cause groundwater contamination through bore holes.
The aim of licensing drillers who carry out bore construction, abandonment or other work on an existing bore is to ensure:
- protection of the groundwater resource from contamination, deterioration and undue depletion
- long-term economic production of groundwater of the best possible quality.
The emphasis of this licensing is on groundwater protection. A driller's licence classification system relating to aquifer types is the most appropriate way to protect the resource and determine the skills and knowledge required by drillers.
An unconfined aquifer system must be protected primarily from surface pollution and the skills involved in achieving this (relating to drilling) are relatively modest, as surface pollution around the casing is easily prevented.
Drilling and bore construction in multiple aquifer systems requires more knowledge and skills on the part of drillers as inter-aquifer communication must be prevented to avoid aquifer contamination and depletion.
Artesian (flowing or high pressure) aquifers require a high level of knowledge and skills on the part of the driller due to the need to understand and control hydrostatic pressures.
WaterNSW issues driller's licences to construct bores under the following classes:
- NSW Class 1 licence allows the construction of water level and water quality monitoring bores including spear points, dewatering, geotechnical drilling and piezometers.
- NSW Class 2 licence allows the construction of sub-artesian stock and domestic supply bores up to 152 mm nominal bore casing.
- NSW Class 3 licence allows the activities of a Class 2 licence and also allows the construction of sub-artesian, screened and developed bores (with open hole, slotted casing or screen completion methods, including the use of a formation stabiliser, but not including gravel filter envelope completion techniques). Does not require a Screens and Gravel Pack Certificate.
- NSW Class 4 licence allows the activities of a Class 3 licence and also allows the use of gravel filter envelope completion techniques Requires a Screens and Gravel Pack Certificate.
- NSW Class 5 licence allows the activities of a Class 2 licence and also allows the construction of flowing and non-flowing bores that penetrate the sandstone aquifers of the Great Artesian Basin and the construction of flowing bores elsewhere in NSW.
- NSW Class 6 licence allows the activities of both a Class 4 licence and a Class 5 licence.
A driller's licence may restrict its holder to the use of one or more of the following drilling methods:
- cable tool
- rotary air
- rotary mud
- such other method as is specified in the licence.
There are a range of actions WaterNSW can take in relation to illegal bore drilling, which include licence cancellation and/or prosecution.
If you are a driller, you are at risk of prosecution if you construct a bore and the landholder has not first obtained a valid work approval to construct a bore.
Drillers must hold a drilling licence to construct a water bore and are only permitted to drill the kind of bore specified in their licence class. It is an offence for a driller to drill a bore that is outside their licence class.
For more information on driller’s licensing, go to Questions and answers for drillers (PDF, 616.07 KB) or Water Management (Water Bores for Consumption and Stock Watering) Proclamation 2011 (2011-104)