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Fees, charges and penalties

Compliance action for unauthorised take and use of water

We recognise that the overwhelming majority of South Australia’s water users do the right thing by monitoring and managing their water use within their available allocation, supporting the sustainable use of our state’s water resources.

Unfortunately, a small number of water users take more water than they have been allocated. This behaviour reduces the security of supply for all other users, including the environment.

Under the Landscape South Australia Act 2019 (the Act), water licence/account holders must remain within their available water allocation at all times. Penalties apply to any water taken without an authorisation or taken in excess of available allocation.

Penalties for unauthorised water use are a transparent and avoidable charge, issued in response to an offence being committed.

In the event that highly recalcitrant and/or repeated behaviour is detected, a range of additional compliance measures available under the Act, such as imposition of additional licence conditions and/or suspension or cancellation of the user’s licence or prosecution, will be considered.

Penalty rates are calculated for each prescribed area with consideration for the market value of water and severity of the offence. These rates vary by prescribed area and act to deter the illegal take of water by ensuring penalty rates are set at a value that is considerably greater than the cost of purchasing water on the market.

Penalty rates are reviewed and published towards the end of the first half of the accounting period for which they apply and are published below.

In prescribed areas where annual penalties apply (that is, areas other than the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse), the accounting period is from 1 July to 30 June.

Quarterly compliance for the River Murray watercourse

For the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse, a quarterly accounting period applies. This means that a penalty charge applies if water is taken without authorisation or a water account holder is found to have taken water in excess of the allocation available on their water account at the end of each quarter – being 30 September, 31 December, 31 March and 30 June. This charge will apply even if any overuse from one quarter is balanced in a subsequent quarter (that is, the account is put back into credit).

Quarterly accounting was introduced to mitigate the risk of water being taken before it is allocated or purchased. This is important to protect other irrigators and water users, including the environment. It also ensures South Australia’s compliance with the Basin Plan sustainable diversion limits and avoids compromising water being delivered for environmental purposes by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.

Further detail and frequently asked questions are provided in the SA River Murray quarterly water account requirements and penalties factsheet.

The quarterly accounting periods that apply to the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse are: 

  • Quarter 1 accounting period: 1 July to 30 September
  • Quarter 2 accounting period: 1 October to 31 December
  • Quarter 3 accounting period: 1 January to 31 March
  • Quarter 4 accounting period: 1 April to 30 June

Declared Penalty Rates

Penalty rates (all areas except the River Murray)

The below penalty rates apply for all prescribed water resource areas with an annual accounting period:

Accounting period that the unauthorised water use occurred

Applicable penalty rates - Link to official declaration

1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022

To be declared prior to 31 December 2021

1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021

Annual 2020-21 penalty rates (see pages 6260 to 6263)

1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020

Annual 2019-20 penalty rates (see pages 4346 to 4347)

Penalty rates for the River Murray only

Penalties declared for unauthorised use that occurred in Quarter 1 of 2021-22 (current quarter):

Accounting period

Up to and including 500,000kL overuse

More than 500,000kL overuse

Unlawful taking or use of water

1 July 2021 to 30 September 2021




View the official declaration: Quarter 1 Penalty Rates (pages 3082-3083)

Penalties declared for previous quarters:

Accounting Period that the unauthorised water use occurred

Applicable penalty rates

Quarter 4, 2020-21
(1 April 2021 to 30 June 2021)

Quarter 4 penalty rates (pages 1386 to 1387)

Quarter 3, 2020-21
(1 January 2021 to 31 March 2021)

Quarter 3 penalty rates (pages 376 to 377)

Quarter 2, 2020-21
(1 October 2020 to 31 December 2020)

Quarter 2 penalty rates (page 5060)

Quarter 1, 2020-21
(1 July 2020 to 30 September 2020)

Quarter 1 penalty rates (pages 4326 to 4327)

Do you consider that there are exceptional circumstances that contributed to the excess water use?

If you are issued with a penalty invoice, you will be provided with an opportunity to make a submission to either the department or the Minister for Environment and Water, should you feel that the circumstances that led to the excess water use (and penalty charge) meet the limited and stringent eligibility criteria for exceptional circumstances, in accordance with Treasurer’s Instruction 5. Further information is provided in the Exceptional Circumstances Fact Sheet, however it should be noted that the following do not constitute eligible grounds for a waiver to be recommended:

  • an administrative error made by or on behalf of the water account holder
  • financial hardship
  • where the user knowingly took water in excess of their available allocation (unauthorised water) and was unable to secure the commensurate water allocation within the accounting period.

Any submissions made to the Minister will be referred to the department for thorough review and making a recommendation to the Minister.

The Minister does not have the authority to waive a debt, but is responsible for making a recommendation to the Treasurer seeking the approval of a waiver. The Treasurer will not respond to any applications made direct to his/her office and will only consider submissions that have been recommended by the Minister. 

It is acknowledged that the assessment process is thorough and takes some time to ensure that all claims are fully and individually considered. As such, the recovery of any related penalty charge(s) is placed on hold to allow for this process to occur. This means that the recovery of any charge that remains will not be pursued until the water account holder is notified in writing of the outcome of their submission.

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

A Landscape Water Levy is payable by holders of water licences and water access entitlement shares, where applicable, under Section 76 of the Act. Levies are invoiced in July each year.

The levy is based on the water allocation or number of shares that are held on 1 July each year. In some areas a minimum charge has also been declared.

Levy rates are published in the South Australian Government Gazette prior to the commencement of each new water year, usually towards the end of June. View the June 2021 Gazette notice, regarding water levies for the 2021-22 water year (pages 2455 to 2460).

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

$480.00 plus a technical assessment fee of $323.00


Application to transfer a water allocation or a quantity of water which is taken to constitute a water access entitlement, other than in relation to an unbundled prescribed water resource

$480.00 plus a technical assessment fee of $323.00


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

$480.00 plus a technical assessment fee of $323.00


(g) application to vary a site use approval

$480.00 plus a technical assessment fee of $323.00


Application to vary a licence for any other reason

$480.00 plus a technical assessment fee of $323.00


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


Source: Schedule 1 of the Landscape South Australia (Fees) Notice 2021 (pages 2006 to 2009). Also see this link for additional fees in relation to applications for: permits and licences relating to wells; other general permits; tagged interstate water trades, and; forest water licences. 

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