Despite being open since August 21, and advertised in The Land, many producers are just now learning about the Department of Planning and Environment's first survey on domestic and stock water and they are fearful it may lead to restricted rights and excess metering.
The department has said the review is to get a clearer understanding of how water extracted under these rights is being used, and whether any changes are needed to improve the way it is regulated.
"The more we know about how water is being taken and used under these rights, the better we can manage it, which is why I encourage all water users to fill out this survey," said executive director strategy and policy, Kaia Hodge.
"Understanding how people use their basic water rights for domestic and stock purposes helps us to effectively manage water across NSW.
"This can have flow-on benefits, such as boosting drought resilience and creating healthier river systems.
"We want to hear about how landholders are using their domestic and stock rights and if they, or other people, have any concerns around the current approach to regulation and management."
The department is using the review to ensure landholders understand what water taken under domestic and stock rights can be used for.
"We are using the current engagement with domestic and stock water users to remind them of the requirements under the Water Management Act 2000," Ms Hodge said.
"When water users understand their rights, they can be confident they are taking water within the rules.
"That's a win for everyone who relies on water from rivers and aquifers."
Chair of the NSW Farmers water committee, Richard Bootle, Nyngan, is concerned producers will be asked to put a meter on their windmills and domestic bores.
"The department at the moment are saying all the right things," he said.
"They are saying it is an information and fact finding excercise and that it's not about future restrictions.
"I think all of us in the farming sector have good reason to be doubtful of the intent.
"When you do the survey, it asks lots of different times and lots of different ways if you think this should be restricted.
"It's a survey designed to show that the current stock and domestic rights system is not working and I think we're all concerned that this is the first step in where metering goes crazy."
Mr Bootle is unsure of the government's understanding of what producers water needs are, including around the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
"My own sense is that NSW Labor are just not across how important a lot of this is for farmers," he said.
"They signed up to a deal which was frankly a terrible deal, for NSW as a whole and obviously for NSW farmers, in terms of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and water buybacks.
"The coastal harvesting deal goes against everything that had been agreed to with workshops over the past five years, and that's been made without any consultation.
"With that background, we're really, really cautious about this review.
"It's really important for farmers to fill in the survey and make their views known that stock and domestic rights work and have worked for 150 years."
Mr Bootle believes any restrictions on current stock and domestic rights will be very detrimental to the industry.
"All of those things are just taken as of right because they are, they pre-dated the water act and it's partly why it was recognised in the water act.
"I would say there could be legal challenges in the future if it was restricted.
"The basic common riparian right to stock and domestic water arguably still exists."
Landholders have until November 21 to enter their responses before the survey closes.
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