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Trade of a water right can mean a transfer of ownership, a change of location, or both. Trade can also be undertaken on a temporary or permanent basis, and a person/s may seek to trade all or only part of their entitlement or allocation.

A transfer of ownership occurs when the registered holder of the water right changes from one person (the seller) to another (the buyer).

A change of location occurs when the location where water will be used is changed. The buyer of the water right may need to vary their license use conditions or relevant use approvals (site use approval or water resource works approval) depending on whether the transfer occurs in a bundled or unbundled water resource.

A transfer of the ownership or location of take of a water right takes effect when a transfer application is approved by DEWNR as the approval authority and you will receive a notification of approval. In general, DEWNR will approve the application if it is complete, there is a sufficient volume available to trade, the trade meets relevant trading rules and water allocation plan principles, and all associated fees, charges and debts have been paid.

Trading rules and water allocation plan principles ensure that transfers do not result in detrimental impacts to the environment, the water resource or other water users.

Why trade water rights?

Water rights are property assets and the ability to trade these rights offer a range of risk management benefits to individuals and water using industries. The benefits of water trading include:

  • Increased flexibility to manage variation in water availability (water allocations) within and across seasons.
  • Increased flexibility to change water use and production arrangements in response to changes in resource availability, other external factors and business objectives
  • Increased business opportunities arising from the use of water rights to increase cash flow in the short-term and/or long-term
  • Allowing new water dependent industries to establish in areas where there is no unallocated water available 
  • Facilitating business contraction or exit by individuals from irrigation enterprises

In terms of overall water management, water trade also ultimately sees water move to its highest value use, and by putting a dollar value on water, trade promotes water use efficiencies and reduced wastage.

How do I trade? 

DEWNR is the approval authority for transactions relating to water rights in South Australia.

Trade may occur by submitting a transfer application to DEWNR as the approval authority accompanied by the transfer fee.

Interstate trades in the Southern Connected System of the River Murray not only need to be approved by DEWNR as the SA approval authority but also by the interstate approval authority, and DEWNR coordinates this process on behalf of applicants. You will also need to complete forms and pay applicable transfer fees to the interstate approval authority.

The approval of water allocation transfers on the River Murray are also subject to a ‘guaranteed processing date’, which is the third Friday in June. After this time, DEWNR cannot guarantee that an allocation transfer application will be processed and approved before the end of the water use year (30 June).

Further information about what is required to complete an application form is provided on the form itself. A broker may also be able to assist with trade and transfer processes.

For more information about the application process or to check the status of your application you can contact DEWNR licensing:

Adelaide: (08) 8463 6876
Berri: (08) 8595 2053
Mount Gambier: (08) 8735 1134
Murray Bridge: (08) 8539 2100


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