Metering compliance for floodplain harvesting in the Border Rivers and Gwydir regions came into effect on August 15, with irrigators now required to have primary metering in place if they want to collect any water from floodplain harvesting.
This has been a tougher than usual task for irrigators with a lack of duly qualified persons (DQP) to sign-off the new metering.
The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) has said it would take this into account when looking at compliance, but reiterated that nobody in the catchments could harvest water without a primary meter.
NRAR a risk-based regulator, with the current focus on ensuring any water taken from the floodplain is accurately measured using primary metering equipment.
"Now the compliance deadline has passed for floodplain harvesting in Gwydir and the Border Rivers, licence holders must be able to accurately measure and report any water they take from the floodplain by installing primary metering equipment," an NRAR spokesperson said.
"The responsibility to install primary metering equipment lies with the licence holder.
"We know that some people have had trouble installing this equipment by the deadline.
"Although we are happy to work with water users to get them into compliance after the deadline, this doesn't mean they can floodplain harvest.
"If they cannot accurately measure and report the water they take from the floodplain with primary metering equipment, they cannot floodplain harvest.
"Our message to licence holders in these valleys is to take action now, while it's dry, to make sure they're able to lawfully capture and store water the next time there is water flowing across the floodplains."
With the deadline passing last month, the spokesperson said NRAR was preparing to help irrigators become compliant.
"We're about to commence a compliance campaign in Gwydir and the Border Rivers and plan to work with licence holders who haven't been able to comply yet to give them a chance to get their primary equipment over the coming dry months," they said.
"NRAR recognises there has been a shortage of DQPs which might be a barrier for some licence holders.
"The floodplain harvesting regulations are important reforms and we do expect water users to make every effort to comply by their deadline, but we will consider each licence holder's circumstances on a case-by-case basis."
NRAR said it would verify the compliance status of storages in licensed valleys over the coming months in Gwydir and the Border Rivers, and the other valleys when the compliance deadlines have passed.
"Water users who have not installed primary metering equipment can expect contact from NRAR," the spokesperson said.
"We will provide information and encourage them to comply.
"However, if a water user chooses to take water after their deadline without primary metering equipment, we will deal with them in line with our regulatory policy."
The deadline for the Macquarie catchment to meet the metering criteria is March 1, 2024, while the Barwon-Darling has until April 1, 2024. The deadline for the Namoi is yet to be determined.
In the Macquarie and Barwon-Darling valleys water users can continue to use secondary measurement devices until their compliance deadlines in March and April 2024.