Water Act 1912 licences

In New South Wales (NSW), the taking of water and its subsequent use has historically been managed through a licensing framework under the Water Act 1912.

This licensing framework is transitioning to a new licensing and approval framework under the Water Management Act 2000.

This transition occurs for particular water sources when a water sharing plan which applies to those water sources commences. This transition process is largely complete.

The Water Act 1912 still applies to:

  • taking water from a water source outside water sharing plan areas
  • construction and use of water supply works outside water sharing plan areas
  • drainage works in all areas of NSW
  • aquifer interference activities in all areas of NSW.

What is a Water Act 1912 licence?

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

Outside water sharing plan areas, Water Act 1912 licences permit the licence holder to:

  • take water from a river, lake or aquifer
  • capture rainfall run-off
  • construct and use a work for the purpose of water conservation, irrigation, water supply or drainage
  • sink a bore, well or excavation which may connect with an aquifer - known as aquifer interference activities
  • dispose of water.

It is an offence to carry out these activities without a Water Act 1912 licence. Water theft is a serious crime.

Types of Water Act 1912 licences

There are two types of licences under the Water Act 1912:

  1. Licences which relate to lakes and rivers, and drainage works - known as Part 2 licences
  2. Licences which relate to aquifers and aquifer interference activities - known as Part 5 licences.

Limits on volume of water taken

Water Act 1912 licences generally specify a volume of water which may be extracted per year - known as volumetric entitlement.


Water Act 1912 licences specify conditions, which are requirements the licence holder must comply with.

Who can hold a Water Act 1912 licence?

Only the owner or occupier of land can hold a Water Act 1912 licence which relates to their land.

If you become the owner or occupier of land with a Water Act 1912 licence, you will become the licence holder.


All or part of the volumetric entitlement attached to a Water Act 1912 licence, or its water allocation, may be traded.

For information, go to Trade.


The NSW Natural Resources Access Regulator is responsible for compliance and enforcement of NSW water law including Water Act 1912 licence requirements.

For information, go to Compliance.