There appears to be a surge in dam construction and rehabilitation activity in the Mid Coast region lately as property owners take advantage of low water levels.
Although the drought conditions are not ideal for maintaining livestock, it does provide an opportune time to undertake maintenance to fix up any leaks or help increase water storage.
A dry dam provides an opportunity for machinery access that wouldn't normally exist and allows property owners to de-silt, reseal and maintain inlets and overflows.
For some, it's a chance to increase the size of the dam or even build a new one to assist with providing more water storage when the drought eventually breaks.
But what are the rules around building a new dam?
There are several things to consider when planning to build a new dam, including understanding the government regulations about harvesting water and what you can and cannot do without consent or a licence.
Some people may think that local councils are in control of these types of developments, but that's not always the case in New South Wales.
According to MidCoast Council, if you plan to build a dam, you may not need development approval (DA) if the dam meets the exempt development requirements under the Manning region Local Environmental Plan 2010 (LEP).
The plan allows for DA exemptions based on land in rural zones and Zone R5, where the proposed dam is to be located and its water storage capacity.
A dam cannot be closer than 10 metres to a property boundary, trees must not be removed or damaged, it cannot be on a watercourse nor have over a three megalitre storage capacity.
There are also guidelines in relation to the height and width of the embankment.
If the dam falls outside of this exemption, then a DA is required.
In addition, depending on the location proposed, the purpose of the dam and its size, you may also need a licence or approval from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, specifically WaterNSW.
The determination as to whether or not a water licence is required comes down to the Harvestable Rights Orders, published in the current NSW Government Gazette (number 40 from March 31, 2006).
According to the department, landholders can collect a portion of rainfall run-off in one or more dams on non-permanent minor streams, hillsides and gullies without a water licence, water supply work approval, or water use approval.
The proportion of rainfall run-off that can be captured under harvestable right depends on where the property is located, with Mid Coast falling into the Central and Eastern Divisions of NSW, allowing up to 10 per cent of average annual regional rainfall run-off to be captured.
Information about dam capacity and where you can build a dam without a water licence or approval is available on the WaterNSW website, with a link to an easy-to-use calculator provided.