Unbundling water rights

Up until 2009, a licence holder’s rights for taking and using water were lumped together, so that only one licence was need for a variety of purposes. As a result, however, application and approval processes were slow and expensive if a request to alter any of the conditions were made.

Water rights are now being separated (or ‘unbundled’) so that they can be managed as four separate items:

  • Water access entitlement (water licence)
  • Water allocation (volume allowed to be taken each year)
  • Water resource works approval 
  • Site use

You need only apply for the right or rights you require and can make changes to one of them more quickly and easily.

Water affecting activity permits already exist alongside water licences and can authorise a number of activities, such as construction of wells and dams or the use of effluent and imported water. These permits continue to exist after water rights are unbundled, but in some cases a water resource works approval can replace the water affecting activity permit.

To find out more, please download our fact sheet on unbundling water rights and a list of frequently asked questions.

The process is occurring differently on the River Murray, please see our frequently asked questions about unbundling water rights on the River Murray.

Schedule for unbundling water rights

Following completion of unbundling for the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse in 2009, we are continuing to unbundle water rights across South Australia and remove barriers to trading water entitlements, pursuant to Action 61 in Water for Good.

South Australia has specific commitments to implement unbundling within the following areas by the end of 2014: 

  • Peak, Roby and Sherlock Prescribed Wells Area
  • Mallee Prescribed Wells Area
  • Noora Prescribed Wells Area.

South Australia is also reviewing the feasibility of unbundling water in its unregulated surface water and groundwater systems. Where demonstrated to be feasible and of overall net-benefit, further unbundling will be implemented in consultation with stakeholders on a case by case basis.