NSW Office of Water has responsibility for managing groundwater in New South Wales. To protect this resource, there are requirements on accessing and drilling for groundwater.

Proposed new water bore drillers' licensing framework

A new water bore drillers' licensing framework is being finalised following public consultation from 25 November 2013 to 24 January 2014. Comments received from the consultation will be taken into account before finalising the new framework.

Requirements to access groundwater

Landholders considering accessing groundwater must first obtain either a water supply work approval or a bore licence from the Office of Water before any drilling or bore construction takes place. For more information, go to work approvals or bore licences.

All landholders across NSW wanting to construct a bore to take water under a domestic and stock right must obtain a water supply work approval.

For more information go to:

Landholders must engage a driller with a NSW driller's licence of the correct class to construct the bore.

Requirements for drilling for groundwater

Drillers are required to obtain a drilling licence from the relevant state or territory in which they intend to operate.

Drillers must sight either the landholder's current work approval or bore licence before drilling a bore and must comply with any relevant conditions.

It is recommended that the driller construct the bore to the minimum requirements set out in guidelines, Minimum Construction Requirements for Water Bores in Australia (aditc.com.au).

The Office of Water recommends conducting pumping tests as described in the Australian Standard AS 2368 — 1990 Test Pumping of Water Wells. A pump test will allow determination of the safe yield, optimum pump rate and pump depth for the bore.

Form A – Particulars of completed work

After the bore has been constructed, the driller must complete the Form A – Particulars of completed works providing location and construction details of the bore, as well as information on the quality of the bore water. The landholder must send the completed Form A to the NSW Office of Water, together with any further information required in the water supply work approval, within two months of completion of the bore.

Applying for a NSW Driller's Licence

Poor drilling practices and poorly constructed or failed bores can cause and contribute to groundwater misuse, wastage and degradation through uncontrolled bore flow or contamination of aquifers via the borehole or annulus around the bore casing. Materials and surface water can also cause groundwater contamination through bore holes.

The aim of licensing drillers who carry out bore construction, abandonment or other work on an existing bore is to ensure:

The emphasis of this licensing is on groundwater protection. A driller's licence classification system relating to aquifer types is the most appropriate way to protect the resource and determine the skills and knowledge required by drillers.

Unconfined aquifers

An unconfined aquifer system must be protected primarily from surface pollution and the skills involved in achieving this (relating to drilling) are relatively modest, as surface pollution around the casing is easily prevented.

Multiple aquifers

Drilling and bore construction in multiple aquifer systems requires more knowledge and skills on the part of drillers as inter-aquifer communication must be prevented to avoid aquifer contamination and depletion.

Artesian aquifers

Artesian (flowing or high pressure) aquifers require a high level of knowledge and skills on the part of the driller due to the need to understand and control hydrostatic pressures.

Licence classes

The NSW Office of Water issues driller's licences to construct bores under the following classes:

Licence classes
Class 1 licenceallows the construction of water level and water quality monitoring bores including spear points, dewatering, geotechnicaldrilling and piezometers
Class 2 licenceallows the construction of sub-artesian stock and domestic supply bores up to 152 mm nominal bore casing
Class 3 licenceallows the activities of a Class 2 licence and also allows the construction of sub-artesian, screened and developed bores (with open hole, slotted casing or screen completion methods, including the use of a formation stabiliser, but NOT including gravel filter envelope completion techniques). Does not require a Screens and Gravel Pack Certificate
Class 4 licenceallows the activities of a Class 3 licence and also allows the use of gravel filter envelope completion techniques Requires a Screens and Gravel Pack Certificate
Class 5 licenceallows the activities of a Class 2 licence and also allows the construction of flowing and non-flowing bores that penetrate the sandstone aquifers of the Great Artesian Basin and the construction of flowing bores elsewhere in New South Wales
Class 6 licenceallows the activities of both a Class 4 licence and a Class 5 licence

A driller's licence may restrict its holder to the use of one or more of the following drilling methods:

There are a range of actions the Office of Water can take in relation to illegal bore drilling, which include licence cancellation and/or prosecution.

If you are a driller, you are at risk of prosecution if you construct a bore and the landholder has not first obtained a valid work approval or bore licence to construct a bore.

Drillers must hold a drilling licence to construct a water bore and are only permitted to drill the kind of bore specified in their licence class. It is an offence for a driller to drill a bore that is outside their licence class.

To apply for a driller's licence or for further information contact us.