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In December 2018, the NSW Government introduced a new water metering framework for non-urban areas through amendments to the Water Management Act 2000 (Act) and Water Management (General) Regulation 2018. The purpose of the reforms is to implement consistent State-wide requirements for water metering equipment.

These reforms will need to be complied with by water licence and approval holders by the relevant rollout dates, including a deadline of 1 December 2021 for some regions.

A summary of the key points and specific recommendations for mining projects is below. More detailed information about the reforms is provided here

Deadlines for compliance

In general, the new rules require metering equipment to be installed, used and properly maintained on water supply works. Licence or approval holders must meet certain requirements in order to comply (subject to some exemptions). 

The map below indicates the dates for compliance in the Coastal, Northern Inland and Southern Inland regions of NSW.   

NSW water reforms - Regional rollout map

Source: Department of Planning, Industry and Environment publication “Non-urban water metering in NSW – What water users need to know – April 2021”.

Earlier deadlines

In some circumstances, earlier deadlines for compliance with the new rules include:

  • from 1 April 2019—for new or replacement meters being installed or if there is a faulty or inactive work, and

  • from 1 December 2020—if the pump is 500 mm in diameter or above in any surface water source in NSW and in some “at risk” groundwater sources.

If standard condition MW2452-00001 (requiring water meters to comply with Australian Standard 4747) has been added to your licence/approval, the deadline for compliance has been extended to 1 December 2021.

Considerations and recommendations for mining projects

In addition to general recommendations featured here about the new framework, we suggest the following actions for mining projects to assist in complying with the new water metering rules:

  • Undertake an audit (including physical inspections) of water supply works for the project (e.g. pumps, bores, and dams) including those located on agricultural buffer land and offset properties. The purpose of the audit would be to identify:

    • which water supply works are the subject of water supply works approvals (or take water from under a water access licence)

    • if the work is the subject of a water supply work approval, whether it matches the details in the approval

    • if the work is not the subject of a water supply work approval, whether there is an applicable exemption which authorises that, and

    • whether the new water metering rules apply to the work and deadlines for compliance.

  • Consider any applicable exemptions from the water metering rules, which may include:

    • an exemption for works solely used to take water pursuant to basic landholder rights, such as harvestable rights dams and bores/pumps used to take water for stock and domestic purposes only without a water access licence, and

    • an exemption where the work is not nominated in a water access licence—in our view this would include certain “excluded works”, which are exempt from the requirement for both a water access licence and a water supply work approval (i.e. “dirty water dams” that meet all of the relevant criteria for such works under the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018, provided such dams are not nominated in a water access licence).

  • Review any commercial agreements (including licence agreements for agricultural buffer land) under which third parties have rights to use water entitlements, to check which party is responsible for compliance with the water metering rules and ensure there are arrangements in place for that occur.

Under the reforms, the new water metering conditions are imposed on a water access licence even if the water supply work used to take water under the licence is:

  • exempt from the requirement for a water supply work approval due to s 4.41 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (which provides that certain approvals under the Water Management Act 2000 are not required for State significant development authorised by a development consent), or

  • used for the purpose of prospecting or fossicking for minerals or petroleum under the Mining Act 1992 or the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991.

These comments are high level and there is some complexity and detail to the new water metering rules. Please contact us if you would like to discuss the reforms and if you need assistance to comply with the new rules.




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