Types of water access licences

Water access licences

Local water utilities generally obtain the water they provide to their customers by taking it from a dam, river, or aquifer.

In NSW, any person or organisation, including a local water utility, taking water from a water source must be authorised to take water by a water access licence and a water supply work approval under the Water Management Act 2000 (section 60A), unless an exemption applies.

These licensing and approval requirements ensure that our precious water resources are shared between water users and the environment, and that taking water at a particular location does not cause unacceptable impacts on the water source, ecosystems or existing water users.

A water access licence authorises the licence holder to take water from the water source specified on the licence, using the nominated water supply work, subject to the conditions detailed on the licence or the relevant water supply work approval.

Licences held by Local Water Utilities to extract water and supply it to customers

The main water access licence types held by local water utilities are:

Local Water Utility access licence with no subcategory

  • These licences were issued to local water utilities when their Water Act 1912 licence was converted to the Water Management Act 2000. Water taken under a local water utility licence with no subcategory may be used for any purpose provided the water is delivered directly to that user by the respective local water utility water supply scheme. These licence types are no longer issued, as all Water Act 1912 licences that were held by local water utilities have now been converted.

Local Water Utility access licence with the subcategory 'Domestic and Commercial'

  • Water can only be supplied for domestic and commercial uses
  • Permitted commercial uses are defined in section 66 (3A) of the Water Management Act 2000 as activities within the following categories recognised in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industry Classification (ANZSIC), 1993 edition (Australian Bureau of Statistics publication, Catalogue No 1292.0)—

(a)  construction (category E )

(b)  wholesale trade (category F)

(c)  retail trade (category G)

(d)  accommodation, cafes and restaurants (category H)

(e)  communication services (category J)

(f)  finance and insurance (category K)

(g)  property and business services (category L)

(h)  government administration and defence (category M)

(i)  education (category N)

(j)  health and community services (category O)

(k)  cultural and recreational services (category P)

(l)  personal and other services (category Q)

Specific licence categories with a sub-category of ‘town water supply’

  • unregulated river access licence (subcategory ‘town water supply’)
  • regulated river (high security) access licence (subcategory ‘town water supply’)
  • aquifer access licence (subcategory ‘town water supply’)

As specified in the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018, these licences can only be issued if the water taken under them is to be used for domestic and commercial purposes (see definition above).

Regulated river, unregulated river and aquifer access licences with no subcategory

  • May be used for any purpose regardless of how water is delivered.
  • These licences can only be obtained through the water market or through a controlled allocation order that is made under section 65 of the Water Management Act 2000.

Water access licence exemptions

Several water access licence exemptions are specified in the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018. For more information about water access licence exemptions, go to: