A NSW Government website

Exemptions for water licences and approvals

Groundwater access licence exemptions

You don’t need a groundwater water access licence for taking 3ML or less of groundwater per year in any water source if it’s not taken for consumption or supply.

Toonumbar Dam.

Groundwater access licence exemptions

The following groundwater exemptions relate only to a water access licence. If relying on either exemption, you must still hold other relevant approvals, such as a water supply work approval.

The exemptions are:

Less than 3 megalitres (ML)

  • for taking less than or equal to 3ML of groundwater per year in any water source (3ML or less exemption).

The 3ML or less exemption applies only to aquifer interference activities not involving taking water for consumption or supply. Examples include:

  • temporary dewatering for water taken to ensure safe and efficient excavation when constructing buildings, but not to water taken for irrigation or town water supply
  • pumping tests to investigate the water sources production capability, aquifer properties and interference impacts for other water users
  • remediation of groundwater contamination
  • exploration for minerals (including coal) or petroleum.

More than 3ML (Botany Sands)

  • for taking greater than 3ML of groundwater per year for excavation dewatering in the Botany Sands Groundwater Source only (Botany Sands exemption).

The Botany Sands exemption applies only for groundwater taken through dewatering to conduct excavation for buildings, roads and infrastructure. This exemption applies to the Botany Sands Groundwater source only and ends 30 June 2025 or when a controlled allocation of access licences occurs, whichever happens first.

The table below summarises the key differences between the two exemptions:


Groundwater Source applies to



3ML or less



No expiry date

Botany Sands (3ML or more)

Botany Sands1


30 June 20252

1 As at end July 2021, but can include others if listed for that purpose in the Gazette.

2 Or when a controlled allocation of access licences occurs.

Recording and reporting water taken

If you are relying on either exemption and the department manages your water licence, you must record and report the water taken within 28 days of the water year finishing (i.e. by 28 July)

  1. Download and complete the Record of groundwater take under exemption (PDF, 287.56 KB) form
  2. Send the completed form to nrar.enquiries@nrar.nsw.gov.au or mail to:

Natural Resources Access Regulator
Locked Bag 5022
Parramatta NSW 2124

Not sure about what you need?

We've developed the Water Assist tool to help you work out who to talk to and what steps to take to get the licences and approvals you need.