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Topics > River Murray > Water markets and trade

Buying and selling water

How can I purchase River Murray water allocation and/or water entitlement? 

You may be able to locate a willing seller of water allocation or water entitlement yourself; in which case you can submit the appropriate water transfer application form to the department, either by post or online, and pay the required fee.

Otherwise a water broker can help you to buy or sell water rights through their website and client databases. Most water brokers use an electronic exchange, which can provide a good indication of market price, volume, depth and liquidity.

Purchasing water entitlement 

There are many different water entitlement types available for purchase throughout the southern-connected Murray Darling Basin’. The ‘type’ of entitlement relates to its key characteristics including in relation to:

  • the resource type that the entitlement belongs to i.e. watercourse water
  • the flow regime of the particular resource, i.e. regulated (by dams and weirs) or unregulated
  • the average annual reliability of water allocations that are made to the entitlement i.e. high reliability entitlements might receive an average annual allocation of close to 100 per cent of the entitlement volume, while low reliability entitlements may only receive some level of annual allocation in the wettest of years
  • the tradeability of the entitlement/allocation to other regions or interstate
  • whether unused water allocation is able to be ‘carried over’ from one year to the next and to what extent.

The characteristics of an entitlement type will determine its price. Because the characteristics vary greatly among entitlements within each state and between states, price differences can also be quite dramatic. As an example, as at January 2018, prices ranged from around $400 for low reliability entitlements in the Victorian Murray (interstate trading zones 6 and 7) to more than $5,000 for the highest reliability River Murray entitlements in South Australia (interstate trading zone 12).

Information and/or links to information about the most commonly transferred entitlement types within the southern-connected Murray Darling Basin is available here. Water brokers can help you to understand the main differences between the types of water entitlement on offer and which entitlements have the characteristics that may suit your personal or business needs. 

Note the main tradeable consumptive water access entitlements in South Australia (Classes 1, 3 and 5) make up only a small proportion of the total volume of consumptive entitlements on issue throughout the southern-connected Murray Darling Basin. This means that as a South Australian water user, you have lots of options available to you in terms of purchasing additional water rights from, or selling surplus water rights to, a broader range of users across the system, including those in New South Wales and Victoria.

Purchasing water allocations 

Water allocation is different to water entitlement, in that water allocation has no defining characteristics in itself other than it is available for use or trade in the current water year (or carried over, where permitted).

From a practical perspective, there are not different types of water allocation, and water allocation does not usually vary in price among states or trading zones in the River Murray system unless a restriction on trade between two places leads to differences in supply and demand within each of those places. You may purchase water allocation from another SA Murray water holder, or from a water holder in any connected state or trading zone in the Southern Connected System ― so long as there are no water allocation trade restrictions in place that would prevent such a transfer. 

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