A South Australian water licensing program has won the United Nations World Environment Day Award for Excellence in Water Management.

The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources and South East Natural Resources Management Board Forest Water Licensing Program won the award.

Forest Water Licensing is a world-first program in the state’s Lower South East which allows plantation managers to be issued forest water licences for their water use – similarly to irrigators.

The program was developed in 2013, and honoured for accounting for and managing the water resource impacts of plantation forestry in the Lower Limestone Coast Region.

The program was introduced to ensure that the water resource impacts of commercial forests in the Lower Limestone Coast are managed within sustainable limits.

All commercial forests are now required to be the subject of a forest water licence, with a water allocation that offsets the impacts of the forest on the groundwater resource.

The South East community wanted long term sustainability of groundwater resources secured, and decided plantation water use needs to be accounted for when managing water allocations.

South Australian Environment Minister Ian Hunter said, “The Board, Department and I are honoured to receive this award – a huge achievement that reinforces the community’s effort towards sustainability for the Lower Limestone Coast Region.

“The ground-breaking program was supported by the State Government through amendments to the NRM Act, providing for the creation of forest water licences to account for forest water use, and would not have been possible without the support of the local community and industries.”

Presiding Member of the South East NRM Board Frank Brennan said the award recognises the foresight and innovation of the Board, Department and staff who provided the scientific, planning and community engagement experience to develop the program.

“In the South East it has been shown that plantations of blue gums and pines reduce the amount of groundwater recharge and directly extract shallow groundwater,” Mr Brennan said. 

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