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Fees, charges and penalties

What are the ongoing costs of owning water licences and water access entitlement shares? 

A NRM Water Levy is payable by holders of some River Murray water access entitlement shares and non-Murray water licences under Section 101 of the Natural Resources Management Act 2004. The levy is based on the number of shares that are held on 1 July each year, and is a minimum of $200. Levies are invoiced in July each year.

Levy rates are published in the South Australian Government Gazette prior to the commencement of each new water year, usually toward the end of June. The June 2019 Gazette notice regarding water levies for 2019-20 is here (pages 1738-1743).

Penalties for unauthorised take and use of water

We recognise that most water users do the right thing by monitoring and managing their water use responsibly, supporting the sustainable use of our state’s water resources.

Unfortunately, some water users take more water than they have been allocated. This behaviour reduces the security of supply for all other users.

If there is evidence of the taking water without an allocation or taking water in excess of available allocation then a penalty will be issued. 

Penalty rates are calculated with consideration for the level of risk that water theft poses to a particular resource and the value of water. These rates vary by prescribed area and for severity of overuse and act to deter and penalise excess water use.

Penalty rates are published in the first half of the accounting period. In prescribed areas where annual penalties apply (i.e. areas other than the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse where quarterly penalties apply – further information below), the accounting period is from 1 July to 30 June.

Penalty rates for the previous water year (excess use in the 2018-19 year) can be found here  (page 4423-4425). 

Penalty rates for the current water year (excess use in the 2019-20 year) have now been declared and can be found here (page 4346 - 4347).  

Quaterly penalties for the River Murray watercourse

For the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse, a quarterly accounting period now applies. The penalty rates are published for each quarter in the first half of the relevant accounting period. Accordingly, the penalty rates applicable to the first, second and third quarter have been published to date.  

The quarterly accounting periods and a link to the published penalty rates that apply to the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse are as follows: 

Quarter 1 accounting period 1 July to 30 September Quarter 1 penalty rate (see pages 2822 - 2823)
Quarter 2 accounting period 1 October to 31 December Quarter 2 penalty rates (see page 3860)
Quarter 3 accounting period 1 January to 31 March  Quarter 3 penalty rates (see page 327)
Quarter 4 accounting period 1 April to 30 June  Will be published by mid-May

This means that a penalty will apply to water taken in excess of available allocation at the end of each quarter. Further detail and frequently asked questions are provided in the following section.

Frequently Asked Questions

Please note this is only applicable to water users from the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse.

Why has a quarterly accounting period been implemented for water users?

Ensuring water accounts are regularly balanced on a quarterly basis will assist river operators in ensuring water is available, for all users, including the environment, when it is required. This is particularly important during the dry times which are currently being experienced across the Murray-Darling Basin.

This approach reduces the potential for the over extraction of one irrigator to negatively affect water availability for downstream users. By tracking water use more closely it also helps to ensure individuals do not use more water than they have been allocated by the end of the water year.

What has changed?

It has been a long standing condition of water resource works approval and therefore a legal requirement to remain within water allocation limits and to submit quarterly meter readings to DEW. From 1 July 2019, penalties will apply if water use exceeds water allocation limits at the end of each quarter.

Penalty rates are calculated with consideration of the market rate for temporary allocations and the water theft risk category of the resource. Penalty rates are tiered so that a greater degree of overuse attracts a greater penalty rate.

Should the volume of water you took during a quarterly accounting period be greater than the available allocation on your water account as at 5 pm on the last day of the accounting period, then you will incur a penalty charge.

What is my water allocation?

It is important that water users stay within their current available allocations, even if the volume of water available for allocation may increase throughout the water year, if water allocations are below 100%. Exceeding an allocation limit at any time during the year is a breach of the Natural Resources Management Act 2004.

You can check your available allocation and account balance at any time by submitting a meter reading form and selecting that you wish to receive a water usage advice statement (like a bank statement for your water account) by SMS or email.

Updated water allocation announcements will occur twice a month and will be published on DEW’s website while allocations remain below 100%. Information on allocation announcements can be found here. Water allocation announcements are also provided through email and/or SMS to account holders, if your details have been provided to DEW.

If you would like to receive updated allocation announcements and/or updated account information as soon as they are available please provide your name, licence/account number, email address and mobile phone number to us via email at or telephone on (08) 8595 2053.

As a responsible water user, how will I be affected?

If you have always remained within your available allocation and continue to do so, you will not notice this change in approach.

There is no change to your existing meter reading requirements. If the conditions on your water resource works approval require you to submit meter reads, you are required to provide these meter reads within timeframes specified. Failure to submit a meter reading by the required date will result in an expiation notice being issued.

What is the penalty for taking water above or without an available allocation?

Penalty rates have now been published for the third quarter of the 2019-20 water year. The third quarter commenced on 1 January 2020 and will conclude on 31 March 2020. 

Penalty rates are calculated based on the market value of a particular resource and take into account the risk to the resource if water theft occurs.

The penalty rates for the River Murray have increased this quarter. If your water account was not equal to or less than your available annual allocation at the end of this period, you will incur a penalty charge. If you take water during the quarterly accounting period, without any allocation, you will incur the penalty for unlawful taking or use of water, as shown in the table below. 

Accounting Period for the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse

Penalty for overuse

Penalty for unlawful taking or use of water

For first 10 per cent

Above 10 per cent and up to and including 25 per cent

Above 25 per cent

1 January 2020 to 31 March 2020





These penalty rates were declared in the Gazette on 13 February 2020 (page 327) available here

It should be noted that if you have taken water in excess of allocation or unauthorised in a previous quarter and in a subsequent quarter, the relevant quarter’s penalty rate will apply in each quarter.

View the SA River Murray quarterly water account requirements and penalties factsheet

Current application fees

Fees for standard applications relating to water licences, water access entitlement transfers, water allocation transfers, water resource works approvals, site use approvals and notations of interest are: 


Application for a water licence



Application to transfer a water licence

$462.00 plus a technical assessment fee of $311.00


Application to vary a water licence on transfer of an allocation, other than in relation to an unbundled prescribed water resource

$462.00 plus a technical assessment fee of $311.00


In relation to an unbundled prescribed water resource—


(a) application to transfer a water access entitlement


(b) application to vary a water allocation


(c) application to transfer a water allocation


(d) application for a water resource works approval


(e) application to vary a water resource works approval



(f) application for a site use approval

$462.00 plus a technical assessment fee of $311.00


(g) application to vary a site use approval

$462.00 plus a technical assessment fee of $311.00


Application to vary a licence for any other reason

$462.00 plus a technical assessment fee of $311.00


Application for notation on NRM Register or for the removal of a notation (e.g. to register a security interest)


Source: Schedule 1 of the Natural Resources Management (Fees) Regulations 2019. Also see this link for additional fees in relation to applications for: permits and licences relating to wells; other general permits; obtaining copies of documents, and; forest water licences. Last updated 1 July 2019.

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