In 2009, amendments were made to the Natural Resources Management Act 2004 (now replaced by the Landscape South Australia Act 2019) to meet requirements of the National Water Initiative to separate or ‘unbundle’ water rights and make the transfer of water rights easier.

The term unbundling refers to water-related rights being separated from each other. Unbundled rights are granted in separate documents which are outlined below.

  • Water access entitlement (water licence): A right to a specified share of available water.
  • Water allocation: A right to take a specified volume of water in a specified period.
  • Water resource works approval: A right to construct, operate and maintain infrastructure to take water.
  • Site use approval: A right to use water at a particular location.

Water rights relating to the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse, the Southern Basins and Musgrave Prescribed Wells Area and the Far North Prescribed Wells Area have been unbundled.

Transitional arrangements enable the ‘bundled’ licences to continue to operate.

This means that for all other water resources across South Australia, the licence holder’s rights for taking and use of water continue to be ‘bundled’ and are authorised in one licence.

As water allocation plans are reviewed and amended over time, unbundling can be considered. The decision around whether to unbundle water rights is made depending on how best to manage the water resource in consultation with local communities.