A NSW Government website

Licensing
and trade

Approvals

Authorisations to construct certain works or carry out certain activities which can impact on land and water resources.

Below are the four approval types and examples of each.

Water supply work approvals

Water supply work approvals allow you to construct and use a work which takes water from a river, lake or aquifer. Examples of water supply works that require approval include:

  • water pumps
  • water bores, including test bores
  • dams
  • weirs
  • irrigation channels
  • banks and levees.

Water use approvals

Water use approvals allow you to use water on your land. Uses of water that require approval include:

  • irrigation
  • town water supply
  • power generation.

Controlled activity approvals

Controlled activity approvals allow you to carry out actions on waterfront land. Waterfront land is defined as the bed of any river, lake or estuary, and the land on each side within 40 metres of the river bank, lake shore or estuary’s mean high water mark. Controlled activities are:

  • erecting a building
  • carrying out works
  • removing material from waterfront land, such as plants or rocks
  • depositing material on waterfront land, such as gravel or fill
  • any activity which affects the quantity or flow of water in a water source.

Examples of controlled activities include:

  • modifications to a watercourse, such as erosion control works and channel realignment
  • construction of bed control measures
  • construction of watercourse crossings such as bridges, causeways and bed level crossings, and ancillary works, such as roads
  • constructing stormwater outlets and spillways
  • construction of boat ramps and sea walls
  • laying pipes and cables
  • sand and gravel extraction.

Flood work approvals

Flood work approvals allow you to construct and use a work which is situated in or in the vicinity of a river, estuary or lake, or within a floodplain, and is likely to have an effect on the flow of water to or from a river, estuary or lake, or the distribution or flow of floodwater in times of flood.

Examples of flood works include, but are not limited to:

  • barrages
  • causeways
  • cuttings
  • embankments
  • levees to prevent inundation of flood waters
  • building pads
  • below ground channels.

Help

If you need help please use Water Assist first. It is a simple web-based tool, that can help to answer all your questions.

If you can’t find the answer to your question, Water Assist will help you to submit a specific enquiry that will be referred to an officer, who will help you further.

Gum trees by the river.

Get the answers you need

Do you need help to:

  • identify the correct government agency or entity for your enquiry or application?
  • lodge an application for a water approval or licence?
  • report a suspicious or unauthorised activity?
  • ask a question?

Visit Water Assist

What are water supply work approvals and water use approvals?

Water supply work approvals

Water supply work approvals allow you to construct and use a work which takes water from a river, lake or aquifer. Examples of water supply works that require approval include:

  • water pumps
  • water bores, including test bores
  • dams
  • weirs
  • irrigation channels
  • banks and levees.

Water use approvals

Water use approvals allow you to use water on your land. Uses of water that require approval include:

  • irrigation
  • town water supply
  • power generation.

Amending an approval

Approval holders are able to amend an existing approval to alter existing works, add additional works or, to request a condition review. Holders can also apply to amend their water supply work approval to specify that some or all of the works authorised by the approval are 'inactive' or, to withdraw an inactive status.

Extending an approval

Each approval issued by the department is approved for a specified timeframe. Approval holders are able to extend their approval beyond the initial approval period. Extension notices are sent to approval holders 60 days prior to expiry. The letter includes an application form and details of how to submit.

Other types of licences or approvals

Water Act 1912 licences

Some works are covered by a groundwater licence rather than a water supply work approval. These works relate to aquifers and aquifer interference activities and are licensed under Part 5 of the Water Act. Groundwater works licensed under Part 5 include:

  • monitoring bores
  • artificial recharge into an aquifer.

Water supply work and water use approvals are needed to ensure water users do not harm water sources or the animals and plants dependent on them. Approvals also ensure that the works don't affect access to water by other water users.

Licences and approvals for private rural landholders and rural industries are issued by WaterNSW. The department provides licences and approvals for many larger commercial and government entities.

Learn more about water supply work and water use approvals, including whether to apply through the department or WaterNSW, via Water Assist.

Controlled activity approvals

Find out what approvals you need to carry out works on waterfront land (controlled activities) and how to undertake this activity.

Hawksbury on an overcast day.

Flood works approvals

Learn more about flood works approvals and their purpose, and how to apply for a new approval or to amend an existing one.

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Water supply work approval

Find out whether your works or water use require an approval, and if so, where to apply.

Under the bridge, Tweed River.

Groundwater application journey

A water supply works approval allows you to construct and use a bore to take water from an aquifer.

Completing an application for a bore can be confusing. This video explains the process.

Groundwater assessments

Groundwater assessments are complex and take time. This video discusses what we look at in an assessment and why.

Groundwater bore construction

A properly sealed bore protects against contamination. This video explains why a properly sealed bore is an important step in bore construction.