Access the information and resources you need to understand the different types of approvals in NSW.
Approvals may be granted by WaterNSW to construct and operate water supply works such as pumps, bores, spear points or wells. Each approval includes conditions to minimise adverse impacts.
Metering requirements apply to water supply work approvals for water supply works that meet the metering thresholds under the new non-urban metering framework. For more information, go to NSW non-urban water metering framework.
Use the NSW Water Register to search for information about:
A water use approval authorises its holder to use water for a particular purpose, such as irrigation, at a particular location. It may also authorise the use within NSW of water taken from a water source outside NSW. Approvals cannot be traded to another property or location.
Each approval includes conditions to minimise adverse impacts.
Use the NSW Water Register to search for information about:
Applying for an approval for water supply works and/or water use
For the application and guide for approval for water supply works and/or water use, go to Applications and fees.
A water use approval is required to use water on land for all purposes except when exercising basic landholder rights.
You also need approval to construct and use all water supply works to:
To simplify water management for individual properties, if both a water supply work approval and a water use approval are required, then these are combined into a single approval.
The application forms require information to assess whether the work may have significant impacts on the environment or whether particular conditions to minimise any impacts may be required.
Are there exceptions?
When taking water under your basic landholder right (for example for domestic and stock purposes) you do not need a water use approval.
You do not need a water supply work approval for:
However, you still need a water supply work approval to construct a dam in a river or to construct a bore, well, spear point or excavation under the domestic and stock right.
Other works may be exempt under the Water Management (General) Regulations Regulation 2018 or NSW planning legislation.
Understanding domestic and stock rights
What is my domestic and stock right?
If you own or occupy a landholding above an aquifer, you are entitled to take groundwater for domestic consumption and for stock watering. This is your domestic and stock right.
Water taken under a domestic and stock right may be used for normal household purposes around the house and garden, and for drinking water for stock. It cannot be used for irrigating fodder crops for stock, washing down in a dairy or machinery shed, intensive livestock operations (such as feedlots, piggeries or battery chickens), aquaculture or for commercial purposes (including caravan parks or large-scale bed and breakfast accommodation) other than for the personal use of the proprietors.
While you do not need a water access licence to take this water, landholders and occupiers still need to obtain a water supply work approval to construct and use a water bore.
Apply for a new approval for a water supply work to take groundwater under a domestic and stock right
You can apply for a new approval either online or by using a hard copy form:
Apply to amend an existing approval for a water supply work to take groundwater under a domestic and stock right
Aspects to consider before lodging an application for an approval
A pre-application meeting with a Water Regulation Officer is recommended to discuss the proposed activity, likely impacts, the application process and the information required. The pre-application meeting is a free service. To arrange a meeting, contact the Customer Service Centre.
Applicants also need to demonstrate that they have secure tenure over the land where the work is to be located or where the water is to be used. Secure tenure includes:
What happens after WaterNSW receives the application?
Applications will be assessed according to WaterNSW assessment procedures and guidelines.
Applications for the following types of approvals may need to be advertised by WaterNSW:
WaterNSW will either determine to grant this application with appropriate conditions or refuse it. Applicants will be advised in writing of the determination and, if granted, a water use or water supply works statement will also be issued.
What are the key features of the approval statement?
The main features on the statement are:
What happens after I receive my water supply work approval?
The approval will allow you to construct a work up to a certain capacity or size and at a specified location described in the approval.
If the water supply work approval is for a bore, your responsibility is to:
WaterNSW recommends 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 website (PDF).
A copy of Form A - Particulars of completed work (PDF, 457.99 KB) is provided with approvals for a water supply work. As part of their licence requirements, drillers must complete this form (including details of the location of the bore on your property, construction details of the bore, as well as information on the quality of the bore water). You must send the Form A to WaterNSW, together with any other additional information required in the water supply works approval, within two months of completion of the bore.
Do I need a pumping test to be carried out on my bore?
Test pumping of your new bore allows the safe yield of the bore to be determined. That is, the optimum pumping rate that can be achieved without significant drawdown impacts. The information obtained from test pumping also allows pump suppliers to recommend a suitably sized pump for your bore, as well as advising on its appropriate depth of placement.
Following completion of a bore for domestic and stock use, test pumping at a constant rate is recommended for a minimum duration of six hours as described in the guidelines, Minimum Construction Requirements for Water Bores in Australia, available from the Australian Drilling Industry Association website (PDF) and the Australian Standard AS 2368-1990 Test Pumping of Water Wells.
In the case of bores for irrigation, industrial, recreation or other commercial purposes located in the coastal management area of the state, it is recommended that a hydrogeological consultant is engaged to manage a longer term pumping test in accordance with the Minimum requirements for pumping tests on water bores in New South Wales (PDF, 2876.18 KB).
Other specific requirements apply for licences in inland areas. Contact a Water Regulation Officer at your local WaterNSW office for further advice.
Extending a water supply work and/or use approval
Letters to approval holders to notify them about extending an approval are posted by WaterNSW before the expiry date of an approval.
Many approval holders can apply online to extend their approval. If your notification letter includes a personal application number, you can use our Water Applications Online service to apply and pay online to extend your approval.
Read more about applying and paying online, including frequently asked questions.
If your notification letter does not include this number, you will need to fill in the hard copy application form posted with your notification letter.
What happens if the holders of an approval change?
If an existing approval holder/s wants to extend an approval but the approval holders have changed, the records for the approval held by WaterNSW will first need to be updated with the new holders' details. Charges that may relate to the approval for future water use may then be directed to the correct holder/s.
If you are an existing approval holder or are no longer the holder of an approval, contact our Customer Service Centre for advice on the requirements to amend an approval.
A flood work means a work that is:
Examples include barrages, causeways, cuttings, embankments, levees (to prevent inundation of flood water), storage structures, building pads, and below ground channels. A flood work also includes all associated pipes, valves, metering equipment and other equipment.
Flood work approvals help to manage water on floodplains. Approvals for a flood work are governed by floodplain management plans (FMP) and their rules, which specify the types of flood work that may be constructed within that management zone.
Approvals ensure the construction and use of the work do not cause negative impacts on water sources and their dependent ecosystems, other water users, and minimises the existing and future risk to human life and property.
Note: Flood work approvals do not authorise the take (harvest or capture) of water. A floodplain harvesting access licence and a floodplain harvesting works approval is required. Please visit The Department of Planning and Environment - Water (DPE - Water) for updates to the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy.
Some activities considered low-risk or covered by other legislation may be exempt from an approval. Please see Exemptions to flood work approvals fact sheet for further information.
Before the expiry date of a flood work approval, approval holders will be advised they can apply to extend their approval. Approvals are extended for a period of ten years.
Step 1: Prior to lodging an application for an approval
A pre-application meeting with a Water Regulation team member is recommended to discuss the proposed activity, likely impacts, the application process, and the information required. The pre-application meeting is a free service, and the booking form above provides the detail of the information required.
Step 2: Complete your application
Step 3: WaterNSW receives the application
WaterNSW will either determine to grant this application with appropriate conditions or refuse it. Applicants will be advised in writing of the determination and, if granted, a flood work approval will be issued.
Step 4: After approval is granted
Approval allows you to construct and use a flood work at the specified location as authorised by the approval
Note: It is an offence under the WMA to contravene a term or condition of a approval. The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) is responsible for compliance with water law in NSW, including ensuring compliance with conditions on WALs and approvals.
Use the online NSW Water Register to search for flood work approvals granted by WaterNSW including conditions and approvals in progress. Current advertised flood work applications can be found at Advertised applications or you can also subscribe to our weekly email of recently advertised applications.
To ensure your approval is correct, it's your responsibility to confirm that your approval matches the works listed.
Mandatory metering requirements will be required from 1 April 2019 for all new approvals meeting the threshold and in a staged manner for all existing approval holders.
Holders now have the option to make a work inactive to be exempt from the mandatory metering requirements and the option to reactivate an inactive work when the work is required to be used again.
Make a work inactive
You can use the form amend an approval for inactive and active works (PDF, 208.84 KB) to specify a work is inactive. An approval holder may not be using an authorised work/s to take water for a number of reasons, including:
In this case the approval holder may choose to apply to amend their work as ‘inactive’, so they do not need to comply with any mandatory condition on the approval that metering equipment be installed, used and properly maintained.
An approval may specify that the authorised work is ‘inactive’ if:
If an approval specifies that the authorised work is inactive, the approval will include a condition prohibiting the work from being used to take water. It is an offence to use a water supply work to take water when it is prohibited by a condition of the approval.
For unregulated and groundwater customers, the one-part tariff charge rate will apply for an approval with an inactive work status. To learn more about the one-part tariff charge rate and how this will impact your bill, please visit our fees and charges page
Note: A work that has not been constructed does not need to be made inactive.
The approval holder can apply to withdraw this ‘inactive’ status at any time. Alternatively, approval holders who have permanently stopped using an authorised water supply work to take water may choose to decommission the work and surrender the approval. Once the approval is surrendered it will be cancelled and cannot be re-activated.
Make a work active
You can use the form amend an approval for inactive and active works (PDF, 208.84 KB) to make the work active (withdraw the inactive status).
The 'inactive' status can be withdrawn by amending the approval to become an active work. An approval holder can only make a work/s active if the work/s are listed as 'inactive' on the approval.
To make a work active, you will need to provide evidence that your work is metered in accordance with the regulatory requirements, including;
If the water supply work approval work is active, the approval holder must comply with any mandatory condition on the approval that metering equipment be installed, used and properly maintained.
Reduce pump size
Some water users may have works installed which are smaller than what is listed on their approval. Under recent amendments to the metering regulations water users can now notify us of the actual size of their work if it is smaller than what is listed on their approval. To do so please complete the online notification form.
Please note: By notifying us that you have a smaller work than what is listed on your approval, this does not amend your approval. Therefore, the fee associated with amending a work approval does not apply.
For more information, please visit DPE – Water’s website.
If you wish to amend your approval, including to increase the size of the authorised work, you can do so by using the apply for the amendment of existing work approval to correct the size of a pump form. The associated fee and regular assessment process will apply.
Review a bore extraction limit (BEL)
You can apply to amend bore extraction limit (BEL) conditions on a water supply works and/or water use approval. This application is subject to groundwater assessment.This assessment is on your individual work(s) and is completed by The Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) Hydrogeology. For review of existing BEL(s) this could either result in a higher, lower or no change BEL based on the assessment outcome.
Your application must be submitted with pump test information as per the minimum requirements for pumping tests on water bores in NSW. Without this, an assessment cannot be undertaken and will be marked invalid.
Other amend an approval applications
Please read the guide before completing the application.
For more information, contact our Customer Service Centre.
WaterNSW aims to process all applications in a timely manner. Find out more about our target standard processing times for approvals and assessments.
WaterNSW acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands and waters on which we work and pay our respects to all elders past, present and emerging. Learn more