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Water licences and water accounts

What is a water licence? 

For holders of River Murray water access entitlement shares, the ownership of shares is endorsed on a water license. The water license specifies:

  • Name of holder and contact details
  • Water resource
  • Date of issue and expiry (if relevant)
  • Dates of any variation e.g. transfers in, transfers out and temporary transfers (leases) including number of unit shares, their class and date of return
  • Water access entitlements including
  • Number of unit shares
  • The consumptive pool to which the shares relate
  • Class of entitlement 

How do I get a water licence?

The department is responsible for issuing water licences to take water on behalf of the Minister for Environment and Water

When a water resource is prescribed, existing users of water have the right to apply for a water licence and be granted a volume of water based on an assessment of their historical or anticipated needs. The process for licensing water use may be at different stages for different prescribed water resources and some water resources may have volumes of unallocated water that may be made available for allocation in the future. For specific information about the water licensing process in your region contact your regional NRM Office.

If the licensing process in your area is complete, there is no unallocated water and you would like to acquire a water licence or allocation, you may look into purchasing these on the water market by engaging in water trade.

The transfer of water licence or allocation from one person to another is subject to rules under the Natural Resources Management Act 2004 and the transfer principles of the relevant Water Allocation Plan that the water right relates to.

Where can I find out more about my water licence?

You can check information concerning your water licence, or any other permit, allocation and/or approval that you hold relating to the access, take and use of water in South Australia by accessing the state’s NRM register, which is publicly accessible through the department's WaterConnect website

What is a water account? 

A water account operates much like a bank account, except that it relates to water allocation instead of money. That is, a water account specifies how much water allocation you have available for use or trade in the current water year, and the sources of the water allocation.

A water account may be credited with water allocation from different sources such as annual allocations under a water access entitlement share, transfer of water allocation, or from a carryover allocation. Each source of water allocation is identified separately, as is each new water allocation from the same source i.e. the Minister may announce regular ‘improvements’ to the opening (1 July) water allocation. The volume of water allocation associated with each improvement is specified on the water account.

A water account will be debited when water allocation within it is used or transferred out. Water use on the SA Murray is determined from:

  • meter readings for the use of water on land, which must be submitted to the department on a quarterly basis; and
  • transfer of water allocation. 


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