Harvestable rights

Harvestable rights

The NSW Government has made recent amendments to coastal harvestable rights. As of May 2022, NSW's coastal-draining catchments can capture and store up to 30% of the average annual regional rainfall from their landholding as harvestable rights water, with restrictions on certain uses. Landholders in coastal-draining catchments must complete and submit a notification form to the Department of Planning and Environment - Water (DPE-Water) prior to capturing water. For more information please visit DPE-Water's website.

Landholders in NSW can build harvestable rights dams on non-permanent minor streams, hillsides, or gullies (but not on or within 40 metres of a third-order or higher order stream) and capture a percentage of rainfall runoff from their landholding. For further information on where harvestable rights dams can be constructed see the  - Harvestable rights dams - where can they be built factsheet

Harvestable rights areas and how harvestable rights water can be used

The proportion of rainfall runoff that may be captured under harvestable rights, and how the water can be used depends upon where a landholding is located. In the

  • coastal-draining catchments harvestable rights area (previously part of the Eastern and Central Division) - up to 30% of the average annual regional rainfall runoff may be captured and used for domestic consumption, stock watering and extensive agriculture. Further information is available on the harvestable rights in coastal-draining catchments webpage.
  • central inland-draining catchments harvestable rights area (previously part of the Eastern and Central Division) - up to 10% of the average annual regional rainfall runoff may be captured and used for any purpose.
  • Western Division - all rainfall runoff may be captured and used for any purpose.

The boundaries of the harvestable rights areas are shown in the map below.

Please note that in the coastal-draining and central inland-draining catchment areas certain provisions apply to mixed-rights dams. Mixed-rights dams are those which store harvestable rights water together which any other water that has been lawfully taken from a water source (such as under another form of basic landholder right, a water access licence or an exemption). For more information on the capacity and permitted water uses for mixed-rights dams - see the frequently asked questions.

For further information on the full set of rules and requirements for harvestable rights please refer to the Department of Planning and Environment website.

Maximum harvestable right dam capacity calculator

The volume of water a landholder can capture and store under harvestable rights is expressed as a maximum harvestable right dam capacity (MHRDC)

The combined volume of all dams (or parts thereof) on a landholding that capture and store harvestable rights water cannot exceed the MHRDC.

To calculate the MHRDC, for a landholding, landholders must use the online Maximum Harvestable Rights Dam Capacity Calculator.

Please note the important information and ensure you keep a record of the results for monitoring and compliance purposes.

If you want to construct a dam that is larger than your MHRDC, you will need a water access licence to cover the volume of water that exceeds the MHRDC and you will need to hold an approval for the dam.

Notification, approval and consent for dam construction

Dams built to capture and store harvestable rights water do not require a water access licence, water supply work approval or water use approval. However, other notifications, approvals or consents may be required as outlined below.

Notification form - coastal-draining catchments harvestable rights area
Landholders in the coastal-draining catchments harvestable rights area must complete and submit a notification form to exercise their right to capture and store water in certain circumstances. Find more information on the department's website.

Fish passage
Under the Fisheries Management Act 1994, any new dam or modification to an existing dam may require the owner to provide for fish passage. All licensed works must be referred for assessment but dams not requiring a licence may still require fish passage. Contact your local NSW Department of Primary Industries Fisheries office for further advice.

Local planning regulations
In many local government areas, local environment plans and other planning regulations require consent for construction of dams.  Contact your local council for further advice.

Other consents may also be required. For more information on consents, contact the Customer Service Centre on 1300 662 077 or email Customer.Helpdesk@waternsw.com.au

Minimal impacts and erosion control
Seek expert advice regarding the dam design and location before commencing construction of any dam. Even if you do not require an approval for your dam, it is still your responsibility to minimise impacts on your neighbours and the environment. Discuss the matter with your neighbours before constructing a new dam.

Also ensure that during all stages of construction you provide adequate erosion control and minimise disturbance to waterways, areas of native vegetation, sites of cultural significance and avoid disturbing acid sulphate soils in coastal areas.

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