Water access licences

What is a water access licence?

The State of NSW has the right to the control, use and flow of all water in rivers, lakes and aquifers in NSW.

In water sharing plan areas, water access licences permit the licence holder to take water from a specified water source in accordance with the licence.

It is an offence to take water from a water source without a water access licence. Water theft is a serious crime.

Types of water access licences

There are different categories of water access licences. These categories define:

  • type of water source from which water may be taken, such as regulated (high or general security), unregulated or aquifer
  • priorities for sharing water
  • how the water may be used - either general purpose or a defined purpose, such as town water supplies, domestic and stock purposes or Aboriginal cultural purposes
  • conditions which apply under the relevant water sharing plan.

Share in available water

Water sharing plans specify the amount of water which is available for extraction from a water source under a long-term average annual extraction limit.

The available water within this extraction limit is shared between water access licences based on the share component of each licence.

How is water shared between licences?

Each water access licence has a water allocation account.

At the beginning of each water year (1 July), an available water determination is made which specifies the water allocation which is available to be credited to the water allocation account of each water access licence, based on the licence’s share in the available water.

For some kinds of water access licences, additional available water determinations may be made during the water year (to 30 June).

A water access licence’s share in the available water is generally expressed a number of unit shares.

For example, if a water access licence has 10 unit shares, and an available water determination is made for 1 ML per unit share, then the water access licence’s water allocation account will be credited with a water allocation of 10 ML. The licence holder can then take up to 10 ML of water under their water access licence.

It is an offence to take more water than the water allocation credited to the water allocation account of a water access licence.

If a licence holder needs to take more water than their water allocation, they can buy another licence holder’s water allocation on the water market. For information about water trading, go to Trade.

When and where water can be extracted

Water access licences specify when and where water can be taken under the licence. This is called the extraction component of the licence.

The extraction component of a water access licence specifies:

  • times, rates and circumstances when water can be taken
  • type of water source from which water can be taken, such as a river, lake or surface water run-off, or an aquifer
  • whether water can be taken from the whole water source or only from within a specified management zone.

It is an offence to take water under a water access licence in contravention of the extraction component of the licence.

Water access licences also specify the nominated water supply work or extraction point from which water can be taken under the licence. WaterNSW is responsible for adding and removing a nominated water supply work or extraction point on a water access licence.

It is an offence to take water from a water source other than by a water supply work or extraction point which is nominated on a water access licence.

Conditions on water access licences

Water access licences specify conditions, which are requirements the licence holder must comply with.

There are 2 types of conditions:

  1. Conditions which are required to be imposed by the Water Management Act 2000, regulations or a water sharing plan.
    1. These conditions commonly include metering requirements, and requirements to keep a logbook about water taken under the licence.
  2. Conditions which are imposed following an assessment of the individual licence.
    1. These conditions commonly provide requirements to protect the environment.

It is an offence to take water under a water access licence in contravention of the conditions of the licence.

Keeping a logbook about water take

Our department has developed logbook templates to assist licence holders to comply with logbook conditions.

For more information, view the fact sheet Keeping a logbook about water take (PDF, 128.79 KB).

To find out which logbook template to use, view the fact sheet Which logbook template should I use? (PDF, 107.89 KB)

Download a logbook template

Who can hold a water access licence?

Any person can hold a water access licence.

Trading

Water access licences, their share component and water allocations can be traded. For information, go to Trade.

Compliance

The NSW Natural Resources Access Regulator is responsible for compliance and enforcement of NSW water law including water access licence requirements.

For information, go to Compliance.