Water resources during drought

This page provides a range of resources that are available to primary producers in NSW in relation to water during drought and dry times. Management and reporting on water is the responsibility of more than one government agency.

The key NSW agencies responsible for water are listed below:

Available water resources in NSW

AreaTitle
Drought information and reports

WaterNSW provides up to date information and data on relevant water storage and drought information for Greater Sydney and Regional NSW.

Visit the Bureau of Meterology to look up town water water restrictions in place across NSW.

Drought update and water allocation

Farm water quality - for stock and domestic use

AreaTitle
Water quality alerts

The local water utility or council provides alerts and information on the safety and suitability of drinking water and where water restrictions apply.

For information on how boiled water alerts are issued, visit NSW Health to read the guidelines

Farm water quality for drinking

Information on testing and treating water for stock and domestic use

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines
Give the definition of safe, good quality drinking water.

Visit NSW Health for recommendations, guidelines, protocols and fact sheets:

  • Water Collected Privately - NSW Health provides detailed information on drinking water quality.
    • Surface water - Due to the potential for contamination, surface water is not recommended as a source of drinking water unless filtered and disinfected. Unless drinking water quality can be assured through disinfection and routine testing, surface water should only be utilised for purposes other than drinking such as toilet flushing, garden watering and irrigation. Treatment may still be necessary for such non-drinking uses.
    • Groundwater poses less of a risk but can still be contaminated with disease causing microorganisms, heavy metals, other chemicals and radioactivity. Your groundwater should undergo comprehensive water quality testing as part of a risk assessment (including considering the aquifer condition) to ensure suitability for drinking water purposes. Treatment systems are available for groundwater.
    • Rainwater - A properly maintained rainwater tank can provide good quality drinking water. Providing the rainwater is clear, has little taste or smell and is from a well maintained water catchment system it is probably safe and unlikely to cause any illness for most users. Proper maintenance of the tank, catchment system, roof, gutters and inlet is essential to ensure a safe supply of water. Treatment systems are available for rainwater.
  • For advice on drinking water quality call 1300 066 055 and ask to speak with an Environmental Health Officer in your local Public Health Unit.

Water quality testing

How do I collect a water quality sample and where do I send it?

Water testing is available through the Wollongbar Primary Industries Laboratories. Charges apply.

Note: Water sampling kits are for the testing of dam, creek, river, bore, irrigation and tank water Order a sample kit online - they will be posted to your nominated address or can picked up from your local DPI or Local Land Services office.

  1. Water Testing Service Brochure (PDF, 1409.73 KB)
  2. Water Kit Submission (PDF, 235.03 KB)
  3. Water Kit Sampling (PDF, 176.42 KB)
  4. Water Micro Submission (PDF, 122.71 KB)
  5. Water Micro Sampling (PDF, 328.69 KB)

Staff are available to answer your questions about the tests and interpreting the results. Call 02 6626 1103 or email wollongbar.csu@dpi.nsw.gov.au

OR

NSW Health provides information on water testing for any business or facility that supplies drinking water from an independent water source (not town water), to the public or employees. Charges apply.

  1. Brochure
  2. Water Testing Kit
  3. Collecting a Microbiology Sample
  4. Collecting a Chemistry Sample
  5. Sample Submission Form
  6. Interpretation of Results

OR

Other accredited laboratories are available. Charges apply.

OR

Contact your Local Land Services office for details of water testing facilities near you.

Interpreting water quality tests

NSW DPI staff at Wollongbar Laboratories are available to answer your questions about water tests and assist in interpreting results.

General information can be found in the following Primefact:

Primefact 1344 - Interpreting water quality test results - Agriculture NSW Water Unit produced this summary on interpreting the results of water quality tests for:

  • pH
  • Alkalinity
  • Hardness
  • SI
  • EC
  • SAR
  • Chloride
Treatment options How do I identify and correct water quality issues?

Farm water comes from a number of different sources and so its quality varies. Water sources include dams, bores, wells, rivers, town water, channels and recycled water. Water may be of an unsuitable quality for its intended use.

It is important to identify and correct water quality problems that may affect on-farm use and productivity.

For more information on household water supplies, see the section above titled Farm Water Quality for Drinking to link to NSW Health guidance.

Primefact 1337 - Farm water quality and treatment

  • Knowing your water quality
  • Water quality issues
  • Treatment
  • Hardness
  • Effect on pipelines, irrigation and farm equipment
  • Corrosion
  • Salinity
  • Effects of soil type on salinity

Primefact 1338 - Desalination of Bore Water

Sometimes bore water is too high in salts, making it unusable for use either in the house or garden, or for their stock to consume. Desalination of this water is an option which some producers to consider.

Topics include:

  • What is desalination?
  • What is ‘reverse osmosis’?
  • Water quality
  • Stock water quality
  • Domestic water quality
  • Desalination units
  • Running Costs
  • Waste disposal
Water quality for livestock Primefact 326 - Water requirements for sheep and cattle
  • water quality
  • salinity
  • acidity or alkalinity (pH)
  • toxic elements and compounds
  • algae growth or bloom
  • environmental factors
  • animal factors

Primefact 269 - Stocktaking water supply for livestock

Tips for understanding the suitability, reliability, quality and quantity of water that is “fit for purpose”:

  • Water stocktake: quantity
  • Estimating dam capacity
  • Water stocktake: quality
  • Water quality testing
  • Water salinity
  • Blue green algae
  • Water stocktake: demand
  • Water stocktake: reliability
  • Can supply meet demand?

Primefact 533 - Water for Livestock: Interpreting water quality tests

When considering whether a water source is suitable for livestock, it is essential to test pH, salinity, and chloride levels.

  • Symptoms of salt poisoning
  • Additional water testing services
  • Salt in pasture and feed, and
  • Interpreting results from the water sampling kit.
Water quality for irrigation Primefact 1345 - Salinity Tolerance in Irrigated Crops

Different crops tolerate different levels of salinity in irrigation water. The tolerance of plants to salinity is mainly influenced by:

  • climate, particularly lack of rainfall
  • soil types and drainage characteristics
  • salt accumulation
  • irrigation method and management
  • stage of plant growth

Topics include:

  • Measuring salinity in water
  • References for these values
Blue-green algae

General Blue Green Algae Information
Algal blooms can cause waters to be unsafe for all users of water including agriculture, irrigation and recreation.

Where do I find updates on algal bloom outbreaks?

During drought, water quality issues are more commonplace, and in surface water supplies algal blooms can occur, all of which have the potential to be harmful.

  • Water NSW provides up-to-date information on algal blooms in NSW. This site includes tips for identifying algae, key contacts for more information, impacts of blue-green algal blooms, and a media release where a red alert is in place.

Blue Green Algae Testing
Diagnosis is based on the visible presence of an algal bloom in animals’ drinking water confirmed by microscopic examination for blue green algae.
To  arrange a test for Blue Green Algae Identification, call the NSW DPI Laboratory Services on 1800 675 623 (option 1)

Primefact 1280 - Irrigating with Blue Green Algae affected water

Any river water or farm dam used to irrigate crops are vulnerable to blue-green algal (BGA) blooms and may become contaminated. This Primefact is designed to assist irrigators who may irrigate with BGA-contaminated water.
Topics include:

  • What are blue-green algae?
  • Does my farm dam or river contain blue-green algae?
  • How can BGA-contaminated water affect health?
  • How can BGA-contaminated irrigation water affect plants?
  • Irrigating crops with BGA-contaminated water
  • Cautions for spray and micro systems

Farm water supply - for stock and domestic use

AreaTitle
Water restriction alerts Water restrictions are issued through local council or the local water utility

Search water restrictions in your local area through the Bureau of Meteorology

or visit www.nsw.gov.au/townwater
Groundwater supply How do I gain access to groundwater supplies?

If you want to take groundwater from an aquifer, you must apply for a water supply work approval to construct a water bore, well or spear point.

Household water supply

Water filling stations
Check with your local Council for water filling stations in your area. Read the FAQs on Household water supply for guidelines for collecting water for domestic and stock use, guidelines for professional water caters and links to known participating councils.

What do I do if my surface and groundwater supply dries up?

If the stock and domestic water on your property dries up or is of insufficient quality for its intended purpose, access to an alternative water source might be necessary.

  • Emergency standpipes and water filling stations are located across NSW and are a practical alternative for accessing water for domestic and stock purposes. These sites are managed by local councils or water utilities and are maintained to meet bulk water carting requirements.
  • Conditions of use and access vary across council regions. Your local shire council or water utility can help establish:
    • if water is available locally
    • where water is and how much is available
    • what approvals you need.
Livestock water supply

What do I do if I have livestock and my surface and groundwater supply dries up?

Maintaining stock water supplies is the landholder’s responsibility.

Strong penalties apply under Animal Welfare legislation for stock owners who fail to provide adequate water.

Landholders are urged to prepare for diminished water with measures such as destocking or investment in water infrastructure on-farm.

If the stock and domestic water on your property dries up, access to an alternative water source might be necessary.

  • Emergency standpipes and water filling stations are located across NSW and are a practical alternative for accessing water for domestic and stock purposes. These sites are managed by local councils or water utilities and are maintained to meet bulk water carting requirements.
  • Conditions of use and access vary across council regions. Your local shire council or water utility can help establish:
    • if water is available locally
    • where water is and how much is available
    • what approvals you need.
 

Available Assistance:

The NSW Government provides information on water supply and testing on Drought Hub and a range of packages that assist farmers to prepare for and manage dry conditions:

  • Drought Transport Subsidy can be applied for the cost of transporting fodder, water to a property for stock or domestic use, stock to and from agistment, and stock to sale or slaughter.
  • Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme can be applied to new purchases and installation of pipes, water storages and water pumps, de-silting dams, and associated power supplies such as generators.
  • Farm Innovation Fund is a loan scheme for capital works up to a value of $250K for infrastructure works (eg sheds, silos, water storage) to prepare for dry conditions, to build resilience and improve on-farm efficiency.

Drought Assistance Fund offers a one-off $50,000 interest-free loan to transport stock, fodder and water, genetic banking of breeding herds and installing on-farm fodder and water infrastructure. The loans term is seven years and there are no repayments required in the first two years

Fish during dry times

AreaTitle
Fish friendly farming

NSW DPI provides a wide range of information to support farmers operating on or near NSW waterways.

Your farming business can also be fish friendly
NSW DPI encourages “fish friendly farming”. Click on the link to see the ways that farmers and land managers can improve fish populations in their creeks and wetlands and at the same time improve on-farm productivity.

Living and working on the banks of a waterway
If you live or undertake works on the banks of a waterway, NSW DPI has released two new brochures to help you comply with the laws aimed at protecting our native fish and their habitat.

Fish kills NSW DPI monitors and managing the response to fish kills in any NSW waterway.

Protocols are in place for reporting and responding to a fish kill incident.

Policies and plans

AreaTitle
Extreme events Extreme Events Policy - Extreme events are defined under the NSW Water Management Act 2000 and the Commonwealth Water Act 2007. They are:
  • prolonged dry periods,
  • water quality events that risk satisfying local uses and values, or
  • any other event which has led to a management plan being suspended in the past 50 years.
Water resource plans Water resource plans are a key requirement of the Commonwealth Basin Plan 2012.

Drought assistance

AreaTitle
Drought Hub View the available assistance for primary producers in NSW impacted by the drought conditions.

A number of NSW DPI offices around NSW are available to assist people accessing assistance.  Visit the Assistance Near You map on drought hub to search for an office near you.

Available assistance specifically for water

Drought Assistance Fund
A one-off $50,000 interest-free loan to transport stock, fodder and water, genetic banking of breeding herds and installing on-farm fodder and water infrastructure. The loans term is seven years and there are no repayments required in the first two years.

Drought Transport Subsidy
The NSW Government’s transport subsidy can be applied to the cost of transporting fodder, water to a property for stock or household (domestic) use, stock to and from agistment, and stock to sale or slaughter. For applications received from 1 July 2019 the subsidy has expanded to include transporting of farm chemicals, fertiliser and seed to farms.

For journeys completed between 1 January 2018 to 30 June 2019, a $40,000 cap is available.  For journeys completed between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020, a separate $40,000 cap is available.

Visit RAA to see the eligibility criteria and guidelines for this assistance.

Farm Innovation Fund
A loan scheme for capital works up to a value of $250,000 for infrastructure works (eg sheds, silos, water storage) to prepare for dry conditions, to build resilience and improve on-farm efficiency.

Animal Welfare Transport Subsidy
A subsidy of 50% of eligible costs for the permanent transport of stock off a farm which is facing financial hardship and where livestock are at fat score 2 or below (dairy cattle 3 or below), to a maximum of $20,000 per financial year.

Water Licences
An automatic waiver of up to $4000 to all general water security licence holders (and supplementary water access licence holders) in rural and regional NSW across surface and groundwater systems, and to customers of Irrigation Corporation Districts (ICDs) for water entitlement costs incurred.

On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate
The Australian and NSW Governments are offering a rebate to drought affected farmers who invest in urgently-needed on-farm water infrastructure to improve productivity and resilience for horticultural farmers with permanent plantings, or that address animal welfare needs. Farmers will be able to access a 25% rebate up to $25,000 on new purchases and installation costs of water infrastructure projects on-farm across NSW to help them in the current drought and be better prepared for future dry conditions.

The On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate scheme can be applied to new purchases and installation of pipes, water storages and water pumps, de-silting dams, and associated power supplies such as generators.

Farmers will be eligible to apply through the NSW government for the rebates which will also cover eligible work undertaken since 1 July 2018.

Click below for:

Drought Communities Program
The Australian Government has committed $123 million to to support 123 drought-stricken councils to invest in local community infrastructure, boosting local employment, addressing social and community needs and other projects such as emergency water supply. For more information, go to Drought Communities Program or call 13 28 46.

Farm Household Allowance
Farm Household Allowance (FHA) is an Australian Government support package that’s available to eligible farmers and their partners experiencing hardship (including drought) for up to four cumulative years (1,460 days). FHA gives farmers breathing space to implement plans and seek training to become financially self-sufficient, so they are better placed to sustain their farming businesses. Improvements to the process allow farming couples to apply on one form, and fortnightly rates are fixed, the assets test is simplified, and the payment time period and amount has been increased. For more information call 132 316 or visit Farm Household Allowance.