FAQs for Adelaide Plains MAR Schemes
This list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Adelaide Plains Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) Scheme Operators and Licence Holders is intended to provide a reference point for all MAR scheme operators within the Adelaide Plains. Questions received from MAR scheme operators and associated stakeholders are captured below. They can also be viewed as a factsheet.
If you have any questions that are not covered within this FAQ, please forward them through to: DEWWaterLicensing@sa.gov.au.
When reading the FAQs, please keep in mind that where an applicant is required to demonstrate a matter to the satisfaction of the Minister, the responsibility for undertaking the relevant hydrogeological or other investigation and the associated costs, lies with the applicant and not with the Minister or the Government of South Australia. Reference to the Minister throughout this Plan refers to the Minister or the Minister’s delegate, where a function or power assigned to the Minister under the Landscape South Australia Act 2019 (Landscape Act) has been delegated to another body or person.
1. What is a recharge water licence?
A recharge water licence gives the licence holder/owner the right to recover water previously drained or discharged into a well, in accordance with a ‘drain or discharge permit’ or an ‘EPA Licence’.
2. What information is included on the recharge water licence?
Recharge water licences will include a reference to the volume of the recharge water allocation (under the heading ‘components of allocation’) and the corresponding purpose of Taking Recharge Water attributed to the MAR Consumptive Pool.
It will also list the well(s) and the native groundwater consumptive pool that aligns with the location of those well(s), which have been assigned in accordance with the Plan and based on the best available information and expert knowledge.
Prior to the designated day (i.e. the time from which licences will be re-issued in a new format (unbundled)), licences will appear different to those that are issued after the designated day. The comparison below explains the differences that are necessary for implementing the transitional arrangements discussed in Principle 39 (Prior to designated day) and Principle 38 (After designated day).
Prior to the designated day
After the designated day
Recharge Water Licences will list:
Recharge Water Licences will list:
Recharge Water Allocations will list:
3. What is the designated day?
The designated day is the day upon which a licence can be re-issued in a new format (unbundled), in relation to sections 88 and 102(1) of Schedule 5 of the Landscape Act. It is yet to be determined when this will be.
4. What is the available balance and recharge water access entitlement?
The recharge water access entitlement will be calculated as the available balance.
The available balance takes into account the water drained or discharged into a well(s) throughout the life of the scheme’s operation, minus any volume that has subsequently been extracted.
The available balance is calculated by DEW, based on the meter readings and historical data provided by, or on behalf of, MAR scheme operators/licence holders. This will then be issued as the recharge water access entitlement on the recharge water licence – after the designated day. Please see Question 2 for further explanation.
5. What is the Recharge Water Allocation?
The recharge water allocation will be issued by the Minister’s delegate, to each recharge water licence holder on an annual basis. It will communicate the volume of water that can be extracted through the well(s) listed on the recharge water licence in the given water-use year (1 July to 30 June).
The volume of water allocated in any given water-use year shall be the lesser of:
a) the available balance, or
b) the maximum annual recovery volume.
6. What is the Maximum Annual Recovery Volume (MARV)?
The total volume of drained or discharged water that can be recovered in a single water-use year will be limited to the MARV, unless (as per Principle 20) the applicant can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Minister that the taking of up to 100% of the available balance would not contravene the criteria for ‘Taking Water from a Well’ in section 7.11 of the Plan.
As part of the RMMP, it is the responsibility of the MAR licence holder to undertake the necessary analysis to determine the MARV for the scheme to ensure no adverse impacts are observed at the site of recovery. The Water Science Unit, DEW, will assess whether the proposed MARV is adequate.
The MARV will also be a volumetric limit stipulated as a condition on a recharge water licence.
7. What do the terms MAR Consumptive Pool and native groundwater consumptive pools refer to?
The MAR Consumptive Pool refers to the combined available balance across all MAR schemes, of the volume of water drained or discharged, minus any volume that has subsequently been extracted. Therefore, it is a purpose-based consumptive pool that extends across the entire area managed by the Plan.
The term’ native groundwater’ refers to naturally occurring groundwater, with a native groundwater consumptive pool taken to constitute the resource within a particular part of a prescribed water resource as determined by the Plan. The native groundwater consumptive pools are based on a fixed geographic boundary and aquifer (or grouping of aquifers in some cases). The native groundwater consumptive pools are listed in the Plan in Principle 1.
8. What is a Risk Management and Monitoring Plan (RMMP)?
Under the Plan, the MAR Scheme operator/licence holder must operate in accordance with a RMMP, approved by the Minister, as conditioned on a recharge water licence. This is intended to be the same document used to meet the conditioned requirements of an environmental authorisation issued under section 40(1) of the Environment Protection Act 1993, or a permit issued pursuant to either section 104 (3)(c) of the Landscape Act.
An RMMP must be updated as the scheme’s operations changes (e.g. new well(s)) and as requested from time to time by the Minister.
RMMPs provide detail of the controls and monitoring strategies for MAR activities at the scheme. It should propose monitoring and management strategies to ensure:
- injectant water quality remains within EPA licence values
- injection occurs within safe operating pressures, i.e. within fracture limits for the overlying aquitard
- third-party users are protected from artesian pressures (flowing wells) during active injection
- third-party users are protected from excessive drawdown during the extraction of MAR water
- other risks relating to the operation of the scheme are identified.
It should also identify the total volume that can be recovered in a single water-use year (the MARV) for the scheme to ensure no adverse impacts are observed at the site of recovery.
It is important to note that, if the scheme owner/operator intends to transfer all or some of the scheme’s recharge allocation volume to another location, the Plan requires that the Minister is satisfied that the continued injection without extraction from the same location will only present a low level of risk, as per Principle 50g. With this in mind, for efficiency purposes it is suggested that the continued injection without extraction from the same location is considered through the RMMP to determine if extra monitoring, assessments and risk mitigation strategies are needed to allow for such a volume to be extracted elsewhere during one water-use year. This could avoid the need to review or amend the RMMP each time a transfer is sought.
9. What is meant by 'A managed aquifer recharge operator who also holds a licence for native groundwater, must use this allocation first’?
For individual wells on a water licence (or water licences) associated with both a native groundwater and recharge allocation, the allocation from the native groundwater consumptive pool will be considered to be extracted first, to enable the banking of water that was intentionally drained or discharged.. This applies from the date of the Plan becoming operational. This was put in place to ensure maximum bankability of water for the MAR operator for future use. Please refer to section 6.3 of the Plan for further explanation.
10. What is meant by the condition ‘The licensee must report the drained or discharged and recovery volumes in a manner approved by the Minister’?
As per the conditions of the recharge water licence, meter readings of injection and extraction wells (even if these have not been used for the year) need to be submitted to DEW, no later than 31 July of each year.
This data can be submitted electronically as part of the MAR Annual Report (MARAR) using the MARAR template. A template for a MARAR will be provided by email to all operators/licence holders during April of 2023.
Currently the MARAR template, which also fulfils the conditions of an EPA licence, includes:
- scheme details and layout
- summary of monitoring program
- list of any actual or proposed changes to the monitoring program or scheme
- monthly injection and extraction volumes
- groundwater pressure levels
- water quality data
- monitoring results of injection/artesian risk trigger levels and what risk management strategies were implemented, e.g. was injection ceased/reduced
- discussion of results where criteria were exceeded
- review of trends when compared with previous monitoring data
- discussion of results based on risks identified in the risk management plan
- discussion of results based on issues raised in relation to previous annual compliance reports
- conclusions on meeting monitoring objectives and effectiveness of the monitoring plan
- compliance with licence conditions and proposed actions to address any non-compliance
- major assumptions or uncertainties.
11. What are the main principles relating to transfer of recharge water licences, and/or recharge water allocations, under the new Plan?
For recharge water allocation transfer applications, these are assessed against Principles 50c, 50d, 50f, 50g, 51, 57 and 58.
12. What is the key information for potential MAR Scheme transferors?
- Recharge water licences and if applicable, recharge water access entitlement shares, can only be transferred due to change in ownership, where an operator takes over ownership of that specific scheme’s site. This is the only ongoing/permanent transfer scenario for recharge water licences.
- Recharge water allocations can be transferred from a recharge water licence to anyone wishing to access groundwater through a well located within the same aquifer and the same spatial extent as the corresponding native groundwater consumptive pool.
- As per Principle 52, the allocation volume transferred from a MAR scheme is automatically removed from the available balance and is not able to return.
- Transfer of a recharge water allocation is for a maximum of 12 months only (equivalent to the water-use year 1 July – 30 June). Therefore, no carry-over is applicable and this applies to transfers from one MAR scheme to another. To avoid ‘losing’ any unused water, it is recommended that instead a reasonable amount be transferred towards the beginning of the year, to avoid taking water throughout the year without an authorisation and then top up towards the end of the year, if required.
- As allocation transfers are for 12 months, the assessment of Principle 50g regarding potential impacts due to continued injection without extraction, the assessment is based on the current resource conditions (considering the next 12 months) and how that fits in with the RMMP. Assessment will need to consider what other transfers have been approved or applied for during the same time period.
13. What is the key information for potential transferees purchasing recharge water allocation?
- The transfer of recharge water allocations between MAR schemes, prior to the new WAP being adopted (applicable to NAP PWA schemes only), would see these recharge credits rolling over for 10 years, as though the water was injected at that site. However, now under the new WAP, recharge water allocations that have been transferred only last for the water-use year during which they are transferred (expiring 30 June).
- If recharge water allocations are transferred to a licence holder who is not operating a MAR scheme, then the recharge water allocation can be considered to be taken before any native groundwater allocation.
- If the location of the transferee’s well is less than 300m from the injection well this could still be approved despite seeming to contravene Principle 57c, as it would be considered to be associated with the MAR scheme.
- If it is determined that a recharge water allocation may be transferred in accordance with the WAP principles, then a recharge water licence will be issued at the same time (no additional form/fee). This is what it will be called regardless of whether it’s associated with a MAR Scheme.
- A transfer can occur without a well being listed but no water can be used until a well is listed on the transferee’s licence (as per Principle 7). Approval to take this water is subject to meeting the WAP criteria. It is a preference to do the assessment first (even with just coordinates or land parcel information) to ensure the water can be taken from the new location of take to avoid undertaking the transfer and then not being able to access water from the proposed point of take.
14. What is required for a MAR operator to demonstrate that they won't cause detrimental impact if they want to extract more than their maximum annual recovery volume?
The WAP and DEW are not prescriptive in what this would entail as it would depend on the situation, for example, the level of complexity, the level of risk, and any cumulative impacts. But MAR operators would need to vary their maximum annual recovery volume in their RMMP, even if this is greater than the design volume. This process would involve completing a risk assessment for these larger volumes of extraction or injection without extraction, considering the impacts on the resource, other users and GDEs (if relevant), if that is appropriate and how that affects the risk profile of the scheme. The risk assessment should be evidence based and if fit for purpose may require a simple analytical model or numerical model.
Based on the outcome of the risk assessment, the scheme’s monitoring plan and management strategies must be augmented to ensure any new or increased risk of negative impacts to the resource and existing users is mitigated such that the level of risk will be considered acceptable. This could include the use of trigger levels, particularly for drawdown. The RMMP must be updated to incorporate any new monitoring and management strategies to ensure the risks are managed effectively.
15. Are there different transfer rules for MAR schemes injecting into wells within the same spatial extent as either the T1 NAP, T2 NAP or Kangaroo Flat consumptive pools?
Yes, these transfer applications are assessed against Principles that take into account the T1 NAP, T2 NAP and Kangaroo Flat potentiometric surface (as per latest available layer) and whether the direction of the transfer is towards the centre of the cone of depression. Please note that the potentiometric surface layer for 2022 is now available on NatureMaps (under the layer view pathway Water> Adelaide Plains WAP > T1/T2 Aquifer Potentiometric Surface Contours Feb 2022) and can be downloaded from this site for use in other programs, e.g. ArcGIS.
The DEW corporate potentiometric surface layer is intended to be developed yearly, with the aim of publishing it on 1 July of each year. However, the WAP is not prescriptive that the potentiometric surface layer will be updated yearly, so, if for unforeseen circumstances the layer is unable to be released one year, the latest layer will be used.
16. Does the source water for injection get considered when submitting a transfer application?
Under the Plan, the assessment criteria for a transfer is the same for all MAR schemes regardless of the source water type. The EPA are not going to be engaged to assist in the assessment of a reclaimed water recharge allocation transfer.
It is noted that the EPA communicated that EPA licences have been issued based on the understanding that in terms of water quality impacts, the water injected at a particular location would also be taken out at this same location. The EPA have raised some concerns that if reclaimed water schemes are injecting and not extracting, the EPA won't be able to control where the plume is moving to, as was initially technically assessed and therefore licensed, based on this risk. The responsibility therefore lies with the MAR scheme operator on whether they are managing their scheme as per their licence requirements.
17. Why does the definition of MAR scheme include reference to disposal of water?
The definition of Managed Aquifer Recharge (or draining or discharging) in the Plan is correct ‘The intentional draining or discharging of water to aquifers for subsequent recovery and use or for environmental benefit’.
Clarification is needed in regard to the definition of Managed Aquifer Recharge scheme ‘An enterprise operated by a legal entity which is licensed or authorised under either the Landscape Act, or the Environment Protection Act 1993, to undertake the intentional draining or discharging of water into aquifers for the purposes of either subsequent recovery, disposal of water or environmental benefit’.
It is acknowledged that disposal of water does not constitute Managed Aquifer Recharge scheme practices. The necessary clarification about this point will be made in references that support the implementation of the Plan and the correction will be made to the Plan at the next available opportunity.