Why trade?

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. For example:
    • Water rights holders who are not currently using their full water allocation may sell or lease the unwanted allocation to another water user; or
    • Farmers and businesses who need more water allocation in the current year or water entitlement and/or allocation for future growth can purchase their requirements on the water market.
  • 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 farms and other water dependent industries to establish in areas where there is no unallocated water available. For example:
    • Landholders that do not have any rights to access water but want to obtain water entitlement and/or water allocation for use on their property may purchase these rights through trade.
  • 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.


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

Trade may occur by submitting a transfer application to the department as the approval authority accompanied by the transfer fee, which is specified on the transfer application. Further information can be obtained for your region via the links below:

Alternatively, please visit our Water Licence and Permit Forms page and click on the link for your prescribed water resource.

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.

River Murray transfer information

Interstate trades in the Southern Connected System of the River Murray need to be approved by the department as well as the interstate approval authority. The department coordinates this process on behalf of applicants, however 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, the department cannot guarantee that an allocation transfer application will be processed and approved before the end of the water use year (30 June).

For more information about the application process or to check the status of your application you can contact the department's Water Licensing Branch:

Office Contact Numbers

Prescribed Water Resources managed by this office

(08) 8463 6876

McLaren Vale, Northern Adelaide Plains, Western Mount Lofty Ranges, Far North

(08) 8595 2053

River Murray, Angas Bremer, Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges, Mallee, Marne Saunders, Peake Roby and Sherlock, Clare Valley, Barossa Valley, Eyre Peninsula

Mount Gambier
(08) 8735 1134

Tatiara, Padthaway, Lower Limestone Coast, Tintinara-Coonalpyn, Morambro Creek & Nyroca Channel

Email (all areas): DEWWaterLicensing@sa.gov.au

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