Water users from the Moree district have expressed their concerns over the December 1 deadline to comply with new water metering rules, at a consultation held in Moree on Monday.
More than 60 water users, including irrigators and industry representatives, attended the water metering roadshow at the Max Centre on Monday, July 15.
The information session was the first event in a series being held by the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) and Department of Planning, Industry and Environment - Water across 12 regional centres to advise water users about the new rules being rolled out over the next five years.
Department of Planning, Industry and Environment Water Renewal Taskforce group director Emma Solomon said the new rules are designed to ensure that the majority of licensed water use is accurately metered with tamper-proof auditable meters.
"It means that new meters have to meet the Australian standards and that they need to have data loggers and tamper-proof seals and that the bigger water users need to have telemetry," she said.
"One really important thing about the new requirements is that there are transitional provisions if you already have a meter in the ground that doesn't meet those requirements. If you can demonstrate that the meter is accurate and has been installed in accordance with the manufacturer specifications, then you can keep your current meter. It will need to be retrofitted with the data logger and tamper-proof seals, but if it is demonstrated to be accurate and a duly qualified person certifies that, then that's okay."
The new metering framework for non-urban water take commenced in December 2018, and by December 1 this year, large surface water users with 500mm pumps and higher must meet the new thresholds. All other non-urban water users in the northern inland region must comply by December 1, 2020.
A majority of water users in the Moree district must comply with the new rules by December 1 this year, and this was one of the biggest concerns raised during Monday's consultation.
"The key message that we're getting is that people want to comply, they want to be able to understand the rules, but probably the biggest concern coming out is about the December 1 deadline," Ms Solomon said.
"In order to show that meters are working accurately and have been installed properly, you need water to test the meters, and of course, in the current drought conditions, that's not possible.
"So there's also someone here from the Natural Resources Access Regulator to talk about their approach if people can't comply for reasons out of their control, such as no water availability.
"Some processes are being put in place, potentially with a six month register, but you need to show that you're on the pathway to compliance."
The Department also consulted on a few minor changes to the regulations, such as reporting and recording requirements for taking water and released a snapshot on Monday which outlines the rules and provides a guide for people to work out whether the new rules apply to them and what they need to do to be compliant.
"We've got an online tool as well, so people can put in their details online and it will tell you what you need to do to comply and when you need to comply by," Ms Solomon said.