Access the information and resources you need to understand the different types of approvals in NSW.

Water supply work and water use approvals


Water supply work approvals

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

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:

  • the status of water use approvals granted by WaterNSW, including conditions
  • approval applications.

Water use approvals

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:

  • the status of water use approvals granted by WaterNSW, including conditions
  • approval applications.

Applying for water supply works and water use

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:

  • extract water from a river (for example via a pump), unless you are taking water under a basic landholder right (although an approval is required to construct a dam or water bore regardless of whether it is for a basic landholder right)
  • extract water from a groundwater body (for example via a bore)
  • capture more rainwater run-off than your harvestable right (for example in a farm dam)
  • store water taken from a river or aquifer, in tanks or off-river storages
  • convey water to another location via irrigation channels
  • divert water away from an area, via banks or levees, includes floodplain banks
  • hold back water in a river, via a weir or in a dam other than under a harvestable right.

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.

Application fees for water supply work and water use approvals vary, depending on the type of work. For more information, go to Applications and fees or contact the Customer Service Centre.

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:

  • pumps, pipes, troughs or tanks to take and store water from a river under a basic landholder right
  • dams within the maximum dam capacity under the harvestable right for your property
  • conveyance works, provided they are located wholly within land that is subject to a water use approval.

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.

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:

  • ownership, or anticipated ownership within a reasonable time of submitting your application
  • an easement
  • permissive occupancy, lease or licence.

What happens next?

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:

  • works taking water from river
  • bores (other than those solely for basic landholder rights)
  • works that impound water in a water source for example in-river dams and weirs
  • works constructed and used to capture rainwater run-off
  • water use such as irrigation.

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:

  • Types of approval: The approval may be for water supply works or water use, or a combined approval for both works and use.
  • Expiry date: Water supply works and water use approvals are generally issued for up to 10 years. A water supply work approval for a bore used solely for accessing water to which the holder is entitled as a basic landholder right (other than water from the Great Artesian Basin) has effect until it is cancelled.
  • Water use: Lists the land where water may be used and the purpose for which water may be used, for example irrigation.
  • Authorised water supply works: Lists the work type, the parcel of land where the work is located, the water source and zone from which the work extracts or captures water.
  • Conditions: Each water supply works and water use approval has conditions specified in relevant water management plans (for example local water sharing plan). The approval may also have conditions that are specific to the particular approval and location.

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:

  • ensure that the works are drilled by a person who holds a current driller's licence issued by WaterNSW. Drillers are required to carry their licence with them
  • provide the driller with a copy of the approval to construct the bore and conditions sheets so that they are aware of any special construction requirements. WaterNSW strongly advises that you obtain a written agreement from the driller for the work to be undertaken.

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.

Amend an approval

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:

  • They have stopped (either permanently or temporarily) carrying out the activity which required water supplies.
  • They are taking water from a different water supply work.

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:

  • the work was constructed to take water from a surface water source, such as a river or lake, and
  • the work is not capable of taking water.

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;

  • the meter is pattern approved
  • was installed by a Duly Qualified Person
  • copy of the certificate accompanied with the application to withdraw the inactive status.

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 NSW DCCEEW'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 NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (NSW DCCEEW) 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.

Surrender an approval


Surrender a water supply work approval

Forms and guides

Please read the guide before completing the application.

For more information, contact our Customer Service Centre.

Constructing a bore

Groundwater is a complex and often very fragile resource which plays an important role in natural ecosystems.

Groundwater sources (also known as aquifers) can be accessed by different works such as a bore, well, spear point or excavation. An approval must be held to construct any of these works.

Why is an approval required?

Licensing groundwater works, and monitoring the levels of extraction, helps us to sustainably manage our groundwater sources, protecting their quality and the ecosystems that depend on them.

Data gained from drilling a bore is collated in a database of groundwater works in NSW which provides information on the location, quantities and quality of water in the aquifer and the local geology.

Existing groundwater records

Records on existing groundwater works, including bores, wells and excavations can be found at Australian Groundwater Explorer and Real Time Data.

Applying for a groundwater approval

The Water Management Act 2000 requires landholders to hold:

Engaging a driller

If you are engaging a driller, you are responsible for ensuring that the bore is drilled by a person who holds a current NSW driller's licence. Additionally, the licence class must be appropriate for the type of drilling to be undertaken.

For information on water access licence dealings in water sources managed by groundwater sharing plans, go to Dealings and trade.

Application processing times

WaterNSW aims to process all applications in a timely manner. Find out more about our target standard processing times for approvals and assessments.
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