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Water allocation plans

To see specific water allocations plans in an area, go to the website of your local landscape region

A water allocation plan is a legal document that sets out the rules for managing the take and use of prescribed water resources to ensure they are used sustainably. Water allocation plans are developed in consultation with community members, First Nations, industry and key stakeholders for each water resource identified as being significant, or ‘prescribed’, under the Landscape South Australia Act 2019

A water allocation plan ensures the needs of the environment are taken into account when determining how much water is made available to be taken and used for other purposes. Water allocation plans set out the amount of water available for use, how that water may be allocated to water users, rules around trade of water, and the types of activities permitted with that water. 

Once a water allocation plan is in place, water users can apply for a water licence, transfer water between users and a range of other activities subject to the rules and limits of the water allocation plan. A water licence provides an ongoing right to take water from the resource.

Why are water allocation plans important?

Water is a precious resource. There is a limit to how much is available for use on an ongoing basis so it is important to provide certainty to current and future users of water, particularly those whose livelihoods depend on it. A water allocation plan provides this certainty. Water allocation plans consider the environment, social and economic needs, and help ensure long-term sustainability and security.

What is the water allocation plan process?

1. Prescription of a water resource

Important water resources in South Australia are protected and managed by being ‘prescribed’ under the Landscape South Australia Act 2019. Prescription means the water resource must be sustainably managed to provide security for all water users, including the environment, now and into the future.

2. Development of a water allocation plan

For each prescribed water resource, a water allocation plan must be developed by the relevant regional landscape board or designated entity. A water allocation plan must meet the water needs of the environment and the community. To ensure this, scientific investigations of the water resource and extensive community engagement are undertaken in the development of a water allocation plan.

There are 6 stages in the development of a water allocation plan:

  1. A risk assessment is undertaken to identify risks to the water resource and water users, including the environment.
  2. The community is given opportunities to provide input into the content of the water allocation plan, based on the risks it is aiming to manage. 
  3. Based on the decisions made about the risks to the water resource, the environment and water users, a draft water allocation plan is prepared. 
  4. A consultation process is undertaken to seek community input and views about the draft water allocation plan.
  5. The regional landscape board takes the community feedback into account when making decisions on any changes to the draft before submitting a final water allocation plan to the Minister for Environment and Water for adoption.
  6. The adopted water allocation plan is reviewed within 10 years to ensure it is still effectively managing the risks to the water resource, the environment and the community.

3. Implementation of a water allocation plan: licences and permits

Once the water allocation plan is adopted by the Minister, it is implemented by the Department for Environment and Water. The department manages the allocation of the water resource to existing and new users in accordance with the rules set out in the water allocation plan. 

To be allocated water, water users apply for a water licence which sets out the allocation and conditions applying to taking water. Those wanting to carry out activities on a water body (like a dam, a lake, a watercourse or a floodplain) may need to apply for a permit.  

See water licences and permits for more information or go to water licence and permit forms to apply.

4. Review and amendment of water allocation plans

A water allocation plan is in place for most prescribed water resources across South Australia.

Water allocation plans must be reviewed within 10 years of adoption. A review can also happen at any time if there is a reason to, for example if a new risk to the water resource is identified.

A review looks at whether the water allocation plan is effectively managing risks, or whether amendments are needed. If a review finds an amendment is required, a process to amend the water allocation plan in collaboration with the community gets underway.

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