Program to improve the measurement of overland flow

The Queensland Government, in collaboration with the Australian Government and other Basin state governments, is improving compliance and enforcement practices across the Murray-Darling Basin.

The overland flow measurement program will improve how we measure the take of overland flow water across the Queensland Murray-Darling Basin (QMDB).

The program is one of the initiatives of the Rural Water Futures program, which is helping drive more transparent and sustainable rural water management across the state.

What is overland flow?

Overland flow is water that runs across the land after rainfall or flooding, or after it rises to the surface naturally from underground.

Why measure overland flow?

Overland flows are an important contributor to the flow of river systems.

Historically it has been very difficult to measure the take of overland flow water as measurement was limited to water levels in on-farm water storages for the few entitlements that were metered.

Measurement of water levels makes it difficult to assess compliance against an overland flow water licence as there are multiple other variables that require consideration (e.g. on-farm operation, take under other entitlements and climate).

A new overland flow measurement framework is being developed, including technical standards and policy requirements. The framework will make it easier to assess compliance against overland flow water licences. Under the new framework, the measurement of water levels in on-farm storages will still be able to be used, as an alternative to conventional metering at the point of take, to minimise costs to the entitlement holder.

Improved measurement of overland flow will provide transparency and information to support future planning activities across the Basin.

Licensing and measurement of overland flow in the QMDB

Up until 2000, overland flows were not explicitly managed in the QMDB.

Since 2000, a moratorium on new overland flow works has been in place in the Border Rivers and Moonie water plan area and the Condamine and Balonne water plan area.

Licensing of overland flow works started in these areas in the mid-2000s and has been completed in the Lower Balonne sub-catchment area. A third of the works are currently licensed in the Border Rivers.

The metered overland flow licences in the Lower Balonne will be reviewed as part of the program.

Program outline

We engaged a consultant to evaluate how overland flow water is managed and measured in Queensland and other Australian jurisdictions and to recommend an improved measurement framework. The consultant provided us with:

  • a proposed measurement standard
  • a fit-for-purpose measurement methodology to determine daily, annual and event-based take of overland flow water
  • recommendations on reporting, data transfer, compliance and auditing
  • a review of technology options for measuring overland flow.

The consultant's proposals and recommendations have informed the development of relevant sections of Queensland’s non-urban water measurement policy that apply to overland flow water.

This, along with an overland flow measurement standard, will detail minimum requirements based on:

  • the type of authorisation including entitlement such as water licences
  • appropriate measurement for the risk profile of the water resource (extraction thresholds, users and environmental sensitivity)
  • grandfathering arrangements for existing measurement.

Draft overland flow measurement framework and consultation

On 20 September 2021, the proposed overland flow water measurement framework was made available for consultation with effected water users and stakeholders.

This is the first step in implementing our comprehensive approach to measuring overland flow water. It details the process, methodology and proposed legislative framework for measuring water take against the activity authorised by any overland flow water licence. This framework only applies to overland flow water entitlements prescribed as metered entitlements under the Queensland Water Regulation 2016.

The proposed framework provides for 4 distinct forms of measurement for either volume stored or volume taken. These forms of measurement are tailored to a range of water licence conditions that may apply for taking overland flow water.

Storage volume or volume stored

Calibrated storage volume

Verified information showing that water storage works are not physically capable of storing more than that allowed for under the water entitlement.

Measured storage volume

Continuous measurement of the volume of water in storage showing that no more is held in storage than allowed under the water entitlement.

Volume of water taken

Derived volume of take

Measurement of changes in the volume of water stored and reconciliation against on-farm losses or gains to determine the volume of water taken in a period.

Direct volume of take

Controlled infrastructure allowing for measurement of water take without the need to reconcile losses or gains.

The proposed framework ensures that all water licences to take overland flow water can be measured without unnecessary impact on farming operations or excessive cost to the water user.

An information paper (PDF, 1.1MB) has been prepared as a summary of the proposed draft policy and standard. For further information on the proposed policy for measuring overland flow water, email Copies of the overland flow water measurement information paper, proposed policy and standard can be obtained from our business centres.

Project timeline

Please check here regularly for updates.

Publication of the program for improved measurement of overland flow 30 June 2019
Consultancy on overland flow measurement standard and risk-based overland flow measurement program findings delivered November 2019
Development of overland flow measurement policy and standards commenced January 2020
Start of interim measurement framework including technical standard for storage water level stations (phase 1)3 March 2021
Release of proposed measurement framework (phase 2) for consultation20 September 2021
Phase 1 of measurement program complete: measurement for on-farm storage water levels in the Border Rivers, Moonie and Lower Balonne sub-catchments standardised 31 December 2022
Phase 2 of measurement program complete: water balance derivation technique to determine overland flow water volumes taken implemented November 2025

More information

Last updated: 18 Oct 2022