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:
|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 Meteorology to look up town water water restrictions in place across NSW.
|Drought update and water allocation|
|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
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.
Information on testing and treating water for stock and domestic use
Visit NSW Health for recommendations, guidelines, protocols and fact sheets:
Water quality testing
How do I collect a water quality sample and where do I send it?
Water for stock and irrigation can be tested at 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.
Staff are available to answer your questions about the tests and interpreting the results. Call 02 6626 1103 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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. The NSW Health Forensic and Analytical Science Services Laboratory can test drinking water. Charges apply.
Other accredited laboratories are available. Charges apply.
Contact your Local Land Services office for details of water testing facilities near you.
|Interpreting water quality tests|
For questions on drinking water quality and interpretation of drinking water test results call
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:
|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.
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.
|Water quality for livestock||Primefact 326 - Water requirements for sheep and cattle|
Tips for understanding the suitability, reliability, quality and quantity of water that is “fit for purpose”:
When considering whether a water source is suitable for livestock, it is essential to test pH, salinity, and chloride levels.
|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:
General Blue Green Algae Information
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.
Blue Green Algae Testing
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.
|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
|Groundwater supply||How do I gain access to groundwater supplies?|
You must apply for a water supply work approval to construct a water bore, well or spear point for domestic and stock purposes. To take water for production purposes (including for intensive livestock) you will also need to purchase a water access licence or allocation from an existing licence holder.
|Household water supply|
Water filling stations
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.
|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. An information sheet Water Access and Licensing During Drought (PDF, 264 KB) on options is available.
Your bore may be too shallow and you may need to drill a deeper bore - go to WaterNSW’s website.
Emergency standpipes and water filling stations are located across NSW and are an 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.
Coastal Farmers - act now to make a water plan
Hot, dry conditions are seeing on farm storages, rivers and streams drying up faster than anticipated, so water supply and water quality need to be monitored continuously.
Those producers who traditionally rely on coastal streams or have access to town water supplies are strongly advised to consider alternative options for supply.
Town water supplies across the whole state are already under significant pressure, with a number of coastal towns already on level four restrictions. These restrictions are likely to escalate over summer as existing dams and streams dry up.
Any farmer or landholder who relies on pumping from coastal and inland streams and rivers will need to look at securing alternate water supplies or making necessary business decisions, as these streams are likely to be reduced or cease to flow due to the heatwave conditions.
What to do:
For more information, including for links to emergency assistance, and information about water availability and stock water visit Emergency contacts (www.lls.nsw.gov.au).
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 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 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
Living and working on the banks of a waterway
|Native Fish Drought Response||View information on actions undertaken to assist native fish through the drought|
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.
|Extreme events||Extreme Events Policy - Extreme events are defined under the NSW Water Management Act 2000 and the Commonwealth Water Act 2007. They are:
|Water resource plans||Water resource plans are a key requirement of the Commonwealth Basin Plan 2012.|
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|
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.
A rebate of $2,000 will be provided to assist eligible landholders with the costs of carting water or installing associated infrastructure to support domestic water supplies on dry regulated rivers.
Drought Assistance Fund
Drought Transport Subsidy
Visit RAA to see the eligibility criteria and guidelines for this assistance.
Emergency relief for regional town water supplies
Local Water Utilities can contact the department for financial and technical assistance.
Farm Innovation Fund
On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate
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.
For the 2019/20 year the waiver of fixed water charges has been extended to all domestic and stock and high security licence holders along the NSW Border Rivers, Lower Namoi, Upper Namoi, Peel, Macquarie and Lower Darling regulated rivers.