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The planning process

The water resource planning process is designed to manage the allocation and sustainable management of water to meet Queensland's future needs.

  • Water resource plans provide the management framework for water resources, outlining outcomes, objectives and strategies for achieving a sustainable balance between water for industry, irrigators, town water supply and the environment.
  • Resource operations plans implement the outcomes and strategies specified in the water resource plan. The resource operations plan also specifies the day-to-day rules and management arrangement for water users and infrastructure operators.

Read about water planning in each catchment area.

Water resource plans

Water resource plans are developed through technical and scientific assessment as well as extensive community consultation, to determine the right balance between the economic, social and environmental demands on the state’s water resources.

Generally, a water resource plan will apply to a plan area’s rivers, lakes, dams and springs and, if necessary, underground water and overland flow. In developing a plan, the size and nature of the resource is assessed to ensure that water is allocated within sustainable boundaries.

Issues addressed in the WRP include:

  • water covered by the plan—surface water and/or groundwater
  • general and ecological outcomes—ensuring water is allocated and managed in a way that recognises the natural state of watercourses, lakes and springs have changed because of water infrastructure, flow supplementation and the taking of water while at the same time ensuring a sustainable balance between the environmental, social and cultural uses of water
  • performance indicators—ensuring security of supply for entitlement holders and a sustainable amount of water is allocated for environmental purposes
  • water available for consumptive purposes—defining the amount of water available for town water supply, industry and agriculture
  • water for future use—defining the amount of water (if any) available for future allocation.

A consultative process

Consultation is integral to the water resource planning process. Regional communities, industry, local government and other stakeholders, including conservationists and indigenous groups, all have a role to play, and their input is sought in the planning process.

Expert advice

Technical assessments are prepared to provide expert advice on relevant social, economic and environmental factors. The scientific advice is fully considered in developing a water resource plan.

Renewal and replacement

As subordinate legislation, a finalised water resource plan applies for 10 years after which the plan must be reviewed and replaced or extended for up to a maximum of 10 additional years if the plan is determined to be appropriate for the plan area.

A water resource plan may also be replaced if its outcomes are not being achieved, or its objectives are no longer appropriate for the plan area. The goal is to see continual improvement as the planning cycle progresses.

Resource operations plans

Finalised water resource plans are implemented through resource operations plans.

Initially, a resource operations plan is likely to focus on areas where water use is greatest and may be expanded to other parts of the plan area. Issues addressed include:

  • water releases from dams—ensuring that infrastructure is operated efficiently providing flows for industry, agriculture, town water supply and environmental needs
  • distribution to users—ensuring a balance between water security and flexibility to trade
  • environmental flows—to achieve ecological outcomes consistent with supporting natural ecosystems by minimising alteration to natural flow regimes
  • water trading rules—to encourage the efficient use of water and ensure trading does not adversely affect water allocation security or environmental objectives.

Water trading

Water trading rules are set out in the resource operations plan allowing for the temporary (seasonal) and permanent trade of water. The rules also ensure that overall planning objectives are met.

Stakeholder and community input

As a part of developing a draft resource operations plan the department will ask for submissions and comment from water infrastructure operators and the broader community.

Also the Water Act 2000 requires the chief executive of the department to establish an independent referral panel to review and provide recommendations on particular issues raised in submissions received on a draft resource operations plan, including a request to change one of the following:

  • a proposed water allocation
  • an environmental management rule
  • a water sharing rule
  • an implementation schedule.

Ensuring the plan works

Once the resource operations plan is in effect the following factors will be monitored to assess whether planning objectives are being met:

  • water taken
  • volumes of water permanently and seasonally traded
  • number of permanent and seasonal trades
  • environmental health.

Contact us

Water Policy
Level 6, 41 George Street
GPO Box 2454
Brisbane QLD 4000

Email: WRP web coordinator 


Last updated: 16 December 2014

The Department of Natural Resources and Mines is an economic development agency that enables the productive and responsible use of our natural resources – water, land, mineral and energy resources – to generate wealth and prosperity for current and future generations of Queenslanders.

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