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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. Compliance action  will be taken for any water taken without an authorisation or water 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.

Additional compliance action can be taken where deemed appropriate.

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.

Annual penalty rates for the previous 2019-20 water year can be found here (page 4346 - 4347).

Annual penalty rates for the current 2020-21 water year will be declared by 31 December 2020.

Quarterly compliance for the River Murray watercourse

For the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse, a quarterly accounting period applies. This means that compliance action will be taken for any water taken in excess of the allocation available on a water account at the end of each quarter.

Whilst South Australian River Murray water accounts were previously reviewed on an annual basis and a penalty applied for any excess water use, it was still an offence in accordance with the Act and its predecessors, for usage to exceed the available allocation at any time.

The practice of using water before it has been allocated or purchased has the potential to negatively affect other irrigators and water users, including the environment, put at risk South Australia’s compliance with the Basin Plan sustainable diversion limits that came into effect from 1 July 2019 and compromise the delivery of environmental water 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 penalty rates for each quarter are published in the first half of the relevant accounting period.

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

Quarter 1 accounting period 1 July to 30 September Official Declaration for Quarter 1 penalty rates (see pages 4326 - 4327)
Quarter 2 accounting period 1 October to 31 December Will be published by mid-November
Quarter 3 accounting period 1 January to 31 March  Will be published by mid-February
Quarter 4 accounting period 1 April to 30 June  Will be published by mid-May

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

Penalty rates have now been published for the first quarter of the 2020-21 water year. The first quarter commenced on 1 July 2020 and will conclude on 30 September 2020.

To provide an adequate disincentive to the excess take of water, penalty rates are set at a value that is substantially greater than the cost of purchasing water on the market.

Penalty rates for the South Australian River Murray are reviewed and calculated on a quarterly basis, taking the market value of water and the level of risk that water theft poses to the resource into consideration. This ensures that penalty rates remain relevant to the value of water at the time that the offence is incurred.  Penalty rates are also tiered so that a greater degree of excess use attracts a higher penalty rate.

If a water account is not equal to or less than your available annual allocation at the end of this period, the water account holder will incur a penalty charge. If water is taken during the quarterly accounting period, without any allocation, the water account holder 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 July 2020 to 30 September 2020





These penalty rates were declared in the Gazette on 13 August 2020 (pages 4326-4327) available here.

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. These are outlined 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; and/or
  • 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. The June 2020 Gazette notice, regarding water levies for the 2020-21 water year, is here (pages 3621-3625).

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

$471.00 plus a technical assessment fee of $317.00


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

$471.00 plus a technical assessment fee of $317.00


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

$471.00 plus a technical assessment fee of $317.00


(g) application to vary a site use approval

$471.00 plus a technical assessment fee of $317.00


Application to vary a licence for any other reason

$471.00 plus a technical assessment fee of $317.00


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 2020 (pages 3614-3617). 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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