Fitzroy water allocation planning – Frequently asked questions

Answers to frequently asked questions about Fitzroy water allocation planning.
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For further information see Water planning in the Fitzroy.

What consultations were conducted in preparing the policy position paper?

There was extensive consultation leading up to the release of the Managing water in the Fitzroy River Catchment: Discussion paper for stakeholder consultation (discussion paper) in 2020, both via written submissions and face-to-face meetings.

The Water allocation planning in the Fitzroy – Policy position paper (2023) (policy position paper) is based on discussions that the State Government has had over the past five years with the community, Traditional Owners, industry, and interest groups about election commitments, opportunities for sustainable economic development and protecting the river.

From these consultations, submissions to the discussion paper, and discussions on the policy position paper, the draft Fitzroy water allocation plan will be finalised for public consideration.

How many submissions were received in response to the Fitzroy River discussion paper?

A total of 43,093 individual written submissions were made.

The majority of these came through online campaigns, while others were received direct from Indigenous organisations, industry bodies, environmental groups and the community.

Input was also provided by Traditional Owners and industry through direct engagement with the Departments of Water and Environmental Regulation, and Primary Industries and Regional Development.

What has been completed since the discussion paper comment period closed in August 2021?

Since the discussion paper comment period closed, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (the department) has collated the 43,093 submissions received, which were considered by the State Government.

The department has also compiled five technical reports which describe in detail the Fitzroy Valley Groundwater Investigations, the Hydrology of the Fitzroy River, the environmental and heritage values, ecological water requirements and groundwater-dependent ecosystems of the Fitzroy water planning area.

This technical work and the public feedback have shaped and informed the policy position paper.

The policy position paper, technical reports and summary of submissions are available at Water planning in the Fitzroy.

What did the discussion paper submissions say?

A wide range of views were expressed. Many people raised strong objections to development using surface water from the Fitzroy River. There were also other views that all opportunities should be considered. The majority of submission supported the State Government’s ‘no dams’ position.

View a summary of the submissions received.

Why is there a policy position paper – hasn’t enough consultation already occurred?

Unlike the discussion paper, which presented options and sought feedback, the policy position paper states the State Government’s policy intent for the proposed draft Fitzroy water allocation plan in terms of managing the water resources of the Fitzroy.

Will the State Government be consulting during the development of a draft Fitzroy water allocation plan?

The public release of a draft Fitzroy water allocation plan will be the next opportunity to provide feedback. People will have the opportunity to have their say on what the final plan should look like.

In the meantime, the department will continue to discuss water planning in the Fitzroy with the community, Traditional Owners, industry, and interest groups as part of our normal business.

Is the Traditional Owner led-Fitzroy Water Forum part of consultation?

The policy position paper is not a draft for public consultation. People can comment on future water planning in the Fitzroy by contacting

The department has agreed to attend a Traditional Owner-led Fitzroy Water Forum to discuss water planning and policy for the Fitzroy River and surrounding areas.

What water will be available under a draft Fitzroy water allocation plan?

The policy position paper states that only groundwater will be available for new use and development. This includes water from the Wallal and Grant-Poole aquifers and local aquifers.

Groundwater provides a reliable source of water and may be sustainably taken if production bores are suitably located. The volume available will not be more than the 108.5 gigalitres proposed in the Managing water in the Fitzroy River Catchment - Discussion paper for stakeholder consultation.

Further take of water from the Alluvial and Devonian Reef aquifers will be restricted to specific uses that are in the public interest to protect sites of ecological, cultural and social significance.

Further licensed take of surface water from the Fitzroy River and its tributaries is restricted. Access to surface water will be restricted to existing surface water entitlements and for domestic and stock purposes.

The total amount of water available for licensing will be released for public comment under a draft Fitzroy water allocation plan.

Why won’t additional surface water be licensed under the draft Fitzroy water allocation plan?

This policy position reflects the clear objection from the public, Traditional Owners and environmental groups to the further take of surface water. The Fitzroy River also supports highly water-dependent sites of ecological, cultural and social significance. Development of these surface water resources is not supported, following consultation feedback and informed by scientific studies into the hydrology, ecology and values of the catchment.

What will happen to current surface water entitlements?

Existing surface licences will not be affected by the proposed Fitzroy allocation plan. Water entitlements will remain the same and licence holders will be able to apply to renew these licences and entitlements under the proposed plan. In line with the policy positions, the proposed allocation limits for surface water will reflect what is currently licensed.

What commitments has the State Government made regarding the Fitzroy River?

The State Government is working collaboratively to deliver on a suite of election commitments to:

  • create the Fitzroy River National Park, which will extend the Geikie Gorge National Park along the Fitzroy River to the north and along the Margaret River
  • develop a management plan for the Fitzroy River to ensure the health of the river and provide a basis for sustainable economic development
  • not allow the Fitzroy River or its tributaries to be dammed.

Why is development being considered for the Fitzroy River catchment?

The Fitzroy River catchment faces a number of distinct challenges, with a local economy characterised by higher rates of unemployment, low labour force participation, remoteness and a reliance on a small number of industries. These factors support the need to diversify and identify strategies to deliver sustainable economic development opportunities.

Achieving a balance that allows for sustainable economic activities to be pursued, while also recognising and maintaining the river’s important cultural and environmental values, is the basis for the State Government’s election commitments. Groundwater is available and provides a reliable source of water that can be sustainably taken.

Will the taking of groundwater impact the environment?

As part of standard licensing processes, the department considers the surrounding environment and the sustainable use of groundwater when assessing a groundwater licence application submitted under section 5C of the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 (WA), to ensure potential impacts are managed.

Will the draft Fitzroy water allocation plan protect the national heritage values of the Fitzroy River?

Yes, a draft Fitzroy water allocation plan will highlight the values associated with the West Kimberley National Heritage listing, including the cultural and environmental values associated with the Fitzroy River. The listing also recognises the importance of the river’s natural flow regime (periods of low and high flows) for maintaining these values. To help protect these values, the State Government has stated in the policy position paper that there will be no further licensed surface water take from the Fitzroy River.

The ‘no dam policy’ is a critical part of the State Government’s commitment and helps to protect the river and its national heritage values. New dams, weirs, barrages and other infrastructure that span the width of the waterway would have a significant impact on the flow of the river and will not be supported.

The proposed draft Fitzroy water allocation plan will also include allocation limits, management zones, licensing rules and conditions, and an adaptive management framework that are designed to maintain this natural flow regime.

Will the State Government ever consider damming the Fitzroy?

The State Government’s policy position paper confirms the continued commitment to ‘no dams’ on the Fitzroy River and states that no further licensed surface water will be supported.

The Fitzroy water allocation plan will enact the State Government’s ‘no dams’ policy and the policy positions in the paper. These policies are based on a long history of community consultation and scientific study.

New dams, weirs, barrages and other infrastructure that span the width of the waterway would have a significant impact on the flow of the river and will not be supported.

Setting in place a robust water allocation plan that sets the policy framework is critical to implementing these positions.

What is the proposed Fitzroy Aboriginal Water Reserve?

It is proposed a set amount of available (licensable) groundwater will be held for native title holders to use for economic development on their native title lands through a water licence. The process for administering an Aboriginal water reserve will be developed with native title holders.

What are the next steps for the Derby groundwater plan: draft for public comment?

In response to the comprehensive feedback received, the draft Derby groundwater plan will be revised. A revised draft Derby groundwater plan, that addresses the submissions received, will be re-released for public comment when the draft Fitzroy water allocation plan is released.

Why isn’t surface water being made available as proposed in the CSIRO report?

CSIRO found that while it was physically possible to harvest 1,700 GL/year of water from the Fitzroy River, the trade-offs would include a wide range of potentially negative impacts to ecological and cultural values. It also identified that decisions on the future of the catchment would require resolution of a diverse range of views, values and interests.

The department considered the CSIRO research, along with its own scientific studies and discussions with people in the community. The department has determined that the CSIRO 1,700 GL/year option would result in unacceptable changes to important parts of the river’s flow, the national heritage values of the river, and the necessary extended dry and drought periods for healthy waterway and wetland systems.

How is the State Government addressing election commitments to protect the Fitzroy through National Parks?

The State Government is steadfast in its commitment to protect the significant cultural, environmental and economic value of the Kimberley region.

It recently created the Bunuba National Park in the Fitzroy Valley, which covers an area larger than the size of London. This reserve, along with the establishment of the Warlibirri National Park last year, delivers on the 2017 election commitment to create a national park along the Fitzroy and Margaret rivers. A further section of the Fitzroy River National Park is being co-designed with Yurriyangem Taam Traditional Owners.

Importantly, the new parks will be co-managed by the respective Traditional Owners, together with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.