Licensing and approvals


Responsibilities for granting and managing water licences and approvals are split between NRAR and WaterNSW. NRAR is responsible for water access licences and associated approvals required by or for:

  • government agencies, including other NSW government agencies, local councils and the Commonwealth
  • state owned corporations
  • major water utilities, water supply authorities, and local water utilities
  • licensed network operators under the Water Industry Competition Act 2006
  • mining companies
  • irrigation corporations
  • Aboriginal communities and businesses
  • floodplain harvesting
  • major developments (state significant developments and state significant infrastructure)
  • schools and hospitals.

WaterNSW is responsible for water access licences and associated approvals required by:

  • rural landholders
  • rural industries
  • developments which are not state significant development or state significant infrastructure.

Visit application forms and guides for more information.

Download the Water laws, licenses and approvals fact sheet


NRAR is responsible for all controlled activity approvals for work carried out in, on or beside rivers, lakes and estuaries. Read the Guidelines for controlled activities on waterfront land.

Download the Working on waterfront land fact sheet or visit controlled activities for further information and application forms.

Drought works exemptions

Recent drought conditions have placed significant pressures on water utilities to maintain water supplies to their local communities. The NSW Government recognises that in serious drought conditions, water utilities may need to seek additional sources of water.

To help meet the urgent need to maintain water supplies to their local communities, any relevant public authority can apply to NRAR for an exemption under clause 39A of the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018.

This is a short-term response to the current drought conditions in NSW, that provides an exemption from the requirement to hold a water supply work approval for the construction or use (or both) of a water supply work.

Under clause 39A, an exemption can only be granted if:

  • conditions of drought exist, and
  • the grant of the exemption is in the public interest given those conditions.

It does not authorise ongoing use of a water supply work and ceases to have effect once drought conditions no longer exist at the location of the work. In addition, a water access licence will still be required for any water taken unless otherwise exempt.

Download and read the frequently asked questions Drought works exemption 39A.

View further information about water supply work approvals.

View further information about water access licences.