Appendix B Identifying economic assets

Water access entitlements are licensed by water agencies in each state and territory. A water access entitlement is generally comprised of two components: (i) the right to extract water from a waterway, catchment dam, spring, soak or aquifer and (ii) the works approval with the right to construct and operate the works associated with the extraction of water such as a bore or a pump. For the purposes of bioregional assessments, an economic element is a combination of the right to extract water linked to the works approval which enables the element to have a specific location. The record associated with each right to extract water includes information about the purpose for which water is extracted (e.g. industry, commercial, domestic etc.) and the volume of water that can be extracted in a financial year (water access rights only). The works approval includes information about the location of the works, the water source where the works is located, and in the case of a bore it may include information on the depth or the aquifer intersected.

For a bioregional assessment (BA), water access entitlements are classed into economic elements and assets as either a basic water right (stock and domestic) or a water access right. Basic water rights, which are commonly referred to as ‘stock and domestic rights’, only require an approval for the works and do not require a licence for the extraction of water. A further division of basic water rights includes basic landholder rights or riparian rights which maintain the right of those adjacent to rivers, estuaries, lakes or aquifers underlying the land to extract water for domestic and stock use. Any purpose that is listed as domestic, stock, or domestic and stock is included in the class 'basic water right (stock and domestic)'. Where stock and/or domestic is listed with another licensed purpose, it is listed as a 'water access right'. Water access rights require a licence for the extraction of water and the associated works. A water access right is based on anything that has an extractive use purpose such as commercial, irrigation, farming, industrial, dewatering etc.

For a BA, it is essential to map the location for the entitlements. A basic landholder right (i.e. a type of basic water right) that is held adjacent to a river usually does not have a specific location recorded, though it may be known to occur within an area (i.e. a mapped polygon) with an estimated volume of use (for example, based on the number of landholders with adjacent water sources). If so, it is linked (attributed) to that polygon, rather than to a point location. Where available, an aggregate volume of all basic landholder rights is sourced from the relevant water sharing plan, for example, in NSW.

For the purposes of the asset and receptor work undertaken in a BA it is not necessary to associate an extraction volume with each water access entitlement. This association may however be required when modelling hydrological impacts of coal seam gas (CSG) and large coal mining development. To include basic water rights in hydrogeological modelling, it may be necessary to estimate an extraction volume for each works licence.

Water access entitlements are held by companies or individuals; however a single water access entitlement may be distributed across multiple works. It is therefore critical to link each surface water or groundwater works (the location) with the volumetric entitlement (the licence) to avoid double counting volumes and to appropriately aggregate or disaggregate the data.

The example below is from NSW and illustrates how the water access entitlement data for surface and groundwater were used to identify elements and assets in a bioregion for bioregional assessment purposes. The process is similar for Queensland; however, the source datasets in Queensland link the licence to extract water with the work approvals. Also in Queensland, the names of specific attributes or terms are different as they are defined by the jurisdiction.

Process for compiling economic asset data: NSW example

Four relevant datasets were sourced from the NSW Office of Water, namely:

  • Licensed Work Approvals which show the locations of extraction works for surface water and groundwater (works)
  • Surface Water Licences which show the volumetric or basic rights to take surface water (water access entitlements)
  • Groundwater Licences which show the volumetric or basic rights to take groundwater (water access entitlements)
  • Water Sharing Plans which include the estimated volume associated with basic landholder rights.

Data were extracted from the NSW licensing system in November 2013. Surface and groundwater access entitlements were described as one of six categories – ‘Current’, ‘Active’, ‘NA’, ‘Abandoned’, ‘Cancelled’ or ‘Suspended’. Those categorised as ‘Abandoned’, ‘Cancelled’ or ‘Suspended’ were removed, all other categories were included in the elements/ assets lists. Also, works approvals that were listed as ‘abandoned’ or ‘decommissioned’ were removed. This potentially over-estimated the number of basic water rights (stock and domestic) as the jurisdictional database may not have been notified if a basic water right (stock and domestic) was no longer active. The water access entitlements also included, where available, the total entitlement volume, not just the metered usage.

The works (locations) from the Licenced Work Approvals were linked to the water access entitlements to produce a spatial reference for the economic element within the asset database. A count was added to show how many works were associated with each water access entitlement. The volume of the water access entitlement was then equally split among the works to ensure that the entitlement volumes were not double-counted. This dataset was then clipped to the preliminary assessment extent (PAE) of the subregion. Each individual water access entitlement linked to a spatial location became an element within the asset database.

For water access entitlements that were not linked to a works approval, no specific location information is available. Therefore, in these cases, all remaining water access entitlements were aggregated to the corresponding water source area (polygon) to ensure they were included as an element or asset in the asset database.

The class of asset was aggregated from the NSW Office of Water 'purpose' field. This field records the purpose for which the water was to be used. Any purpose that was listed as domestic, stock, or domestic and stock was included in the class 'basic water right (stock and domestic)'. Where stock and/or domestic was listed with another purpose, it was listed as a 'water access right'. 'Water access right' is based on anything that has an extractive use purpose such as commercial, irrigation, farming, industrial, dewatering etc. Each element or asset can only be assigned to one asset class. Therefore, the most relevant class was used. It would also have been correct to assign the elements and assets as ‘a surface water feature used for water supply’ or ‘a groundwater feature used for water supply’; however ‘basic water right’ and ‘water access right’ were more specific and therefore more appropriate in this case.

This process assumes that each works associated with a water access entitlement extracts an equal share of the volume allocated. Therefore if one groundwater access entitlement of 80 ML/year has four works (bores) associated with it, then 20 ML/year are assigned to each of those works. It was not possible to validate this assumption as it was possible that the majority of extraction occurred at a single works location and was not evenly distributed across all works associated with the licence.

Groundwater elements that were not classified as a ‘basic water right’ or a ‘water access right’ were not considered relevant to the BA and were classed as ‘null’. These included test bores, bores installed for groundwater remediation, exploratory bores, exploratory research, monitoring bores and waste disposal bores. These works were not operational for extractive use. The elements were retained in the asset database for transparency purposes, but were flagged, or ‘turned off’, and take no further part in the BA. Jurisdictional monitoring bores, depending on their location, could be used as receptors to determine changes in water pressure and/or depth to water in the aquifer.

Data provided by NSW Office of Water did not list the river reach where the offtake is located (surface water licences only), instead they included the water source and water management zone that was associated with the management plan. A water source can be any set of rivers, aquifers, and lakes etc. which are defined by a gazetted water sharing plan to be a water source. Therefore when the elements were aggregated into the asset, water access entitlements were grouped together across the water source area (a large polygon). In subsequent components of the BA, this will need to be taken into account when assigning receptor locations as the water source may include multiple river reaches and potentially multiple river branches.

Economic assets were named as [“Class” + “Water Source”]. Where water source information was not available, a unique numeric identifier was allocated.

The process for identifying economic elements and assets will be similar in each jurisdiction with minor changes based on the source datasets supplied and the attributes of those datasets.

Last updated:
13 June 2018