Australian Water Information Dictionary

Water status: Water in Australia

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Aboriginal water

Water resources of an area that are recognised or used by aboriginal peoples for their social, spiritual and cultural values.

Source: Modified from National Water Accounts, viewed 25 July 2015.

Related: cultural basic right

This definition applies to:

accessible storage capacity

The volume of water that a water storage can hold between the minimum supply level and full supply level; equal to the total storage capacity excluding the dead storage capacity. It is the sum of this capacity that is reported for a collection of water storages. See the water storage diagram for more information.

Related:

Synonym: capacity

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aquifer

An underground layer of saturated rock, sand or gravel that absorbs water and allows it to pass freely through pore spaces.

Source: Modified from Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality (2000)

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bore

A hole drilled in the ground, a well or any other excavation used to access groundwater. May be used for observation of groundwater (including water level, pressure or quality).

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catchment

The land area draining to a point of interest, such as a water storage or monitoring site on a watercourse.

Related:

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climate

The average long-term weather conditions in a particular area. See the Climate Glossary webpage for more information.

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confined aquifer

An aquifer overlain by a confining bed. The confining bed has a significantly lower hydraulic conductivity than the aquifer. Typically, groundwater in a confined aquifer is under pressure significantly greater than atmospheric pressure.

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dead storage

In a water storage, the volume of water stored below the level of the lowest outlet (the minimum supply level). This water cannot be accessed under normal operating conditions.

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desalination

The process of removing salt from brackish or saline water.

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drought

A long period of abnormally low rainfall, especially one that adversely affects agriculture and other human activities. See the Climate Glossary for more information.

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ecosystem

A dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit.

Source: Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

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El Niño

Refers to the extensive warming of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean that leads to a major shift in weather patterns across the Pacific. In Australia (particularly eastern Australia), El Niño events are associated with an increased probability of drier conditions. See the Climate Glossary webpage on El Niño for more information.

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El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)

The oscillation between the El Niño climate phase and the La Niña phase, usually over several years. See the Australian Climate Influence webpage on ENSO for more information.

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electrical conductivity

In relation to water, the capacity of the water to transmit a flow of electricity and is a common measure of the salinity of the water.

Source: Water Regulations 2008 Schedule 3 Part 1

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entitlement security

The frequency with which water allocated under a water access entitlement is able to be supplied in full.

Related: security licence

Synonym: reliability

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entitlement system

A jurisdictional gazetted instrument (e.g. Water Sharing Plan), subordinate to the overarching State or Territory water rights legislation, intended to share the portion of the total water resource it covers.

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environmental flow

The streamflow required to maintain appropriate environmental conditions in a waterway or water body.

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environmental water

Water that is available or preserved, to achieve environmental outcomes, including ecosystem function, biodiversity, water quality and water resource health.

Source: Derived from the Water Act 2007 Part 1 Section 4

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environmental water release

Water released from infrastructure, such as a surface water storage, for the benefit of the environment.

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evaporation

A process that occurs at a liquid surface, resulting in a change of state from liquid to vapour. In relation to water resource assessment and water accounting, evaporation refers to the movement of water from the land surface (predominantly liquid) to the atmosphere (water vapour). The liquid water at the land surface that may be available for evaporation includes surface water, soil water, water within vegetation, and water on vegetation and paved surfaces.

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evapotranspiration

The sum of evaporation and plant transpiration from the earth’s land surface to the atmosphere.

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farm dam

Small water storage, usually managed by the landowner with a capacity usually less than 100 ML. The volume includes dead storage.

Related: runoff dam

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floodplain

Flat or nearly flat land adjacent to a stream or river that experiences occasional or periodic flooding.

Related: alluvial plain

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fractured rock

Hard, impermeable rock containing fractures and fissures that are able to store and transmit water.

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groundwater

Subsurface water in soils and geological formations that are fully saturated.

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groundwater level

The level of groundwater in an aquifer, typically measured in a groundwater bore. In the case of an unconfined aquifer, the groundwater level is equal to the watertable level.

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groundwater management plan

A document providing information about groundwater access for users. It may include rules about transferring licence entitlements, and contain arrangements that allow carryover of groundwater entitlements. It may also outline water sharing arrangements during times of water shortage.

Source: Modified from Goulburn-Murray Water, viewed 25 July 2015.

This definition applies to:

groundwater recharge

The infiltration or ingress of water to the saturated part of a geological layer. Infiltration of precipitation and its movement to the watertable is a form of natural recharge. Other forms of recharge are flooding and irrigation. Artificial recharge can also occur through various means, including bore injection.

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irrigation right

A right issued by an irrigation entity and granted from the entity’s bulk water access entitlement.

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La Niña

The extensive cooling of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. In Australia (particularly eastern Australia), La Niña events are associated with an increased probability of wetter conditions. See the Climate Glossary webpage on La Niña for more information.

Related:

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major storage

Any water storage that has a total storage capacity of 1000 million litres or more.

Source: Water Regulations 2008 Schedule 3 Part 1

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Millennium drought

The prolonged period of dry conditions experienced in much of southern Australia from late 1996 to mid-2010.

Source: Modified from the Bureau's Climate updates, viewed 25 July 2015.

Related: drought

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potable water

Water that is intended for use as drinking water and should materially meet the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2004, or equivalent.

Source: Derived from Water Regulations 2008 Schedule 3 Part 1

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rainfall

The total liquid product of precipitation or condensation from the atmosphere, as received and measured in a rain gauge.

Source: learn about meteorology

Related:

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recycled water

Treated sewage effluent, and:

• includes water extracted by sewer mining and subsequently treated

• does not include treated urban stormwater.

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regulated river

River on which a licensed entitlement regime exists with centralised allocation, and from which orders may be placed for upstream release of a licensed allocation. A necessary, but not sufficient condition for a river to be regulated is that it is located downstream of a surface water storage. Note: the term 'river' can be replaced with 'channel' and retain the same meaning.

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residential water

The total amount of metered and estimated non-metered, potable and non-potable water supplied to residential properties.

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runoff dam

A dam or reservoir that collects surface water flowing across land.

Note: In New South Wales, a runoff dam may also collect water from a first- or second-order stream.

Source: Water Act 2007 -Basin Plan, Part 3 Section 1.07, viewed 25 July 2015.

Related: farm dam

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salinity

The concentration of soluble salts in a solution, soil or other medium.

Source: eWater Toolkit Glossary

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security licence

A permission to use water at a prescribed level of reliability.

High-security licences provide greater reliability for special needs, such as household water, electricity generation, some industry and some perennial high-value crops.

On-channel general security licences have lower reliability, which means that these licence holders—usually irrigators of annual crops—are more susceptible to reductions in water availability.

Related: entitlement security

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soil moisture

The water content in the unsaturated zone of a soil profile.

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stock and domestic water use

Use of water for domestic consumption (e.g. drinking, cooking, washing, watering household gardens, filling swimming pools associated with domestic premises) and to water stock on a property. Does not include water used for irrigating crops that will be sold, bartered or used for stock fodder, for washing down machinery sheds, or for intensive livestock operations.

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storage

A pond, lake or basin, whether natural or artificial, for the storage, regulation and control of water.

Synonym: water storage

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storage level

The elevation of the water surface in a water storage at a particular time and date, measured relative to a specified datum, typically the Australian Height Datum (AHD). See the water storage diagram for application with respect to water storages.

Synonym: water level

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storage system

A water storage or group of water storages from which releases and diversions are the main source of water for users within the boundaries of a particular region, normally aligning with a river catchment.

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storage volume

The volume of water stored at a particular time and date. It excludes the dead storage volume and is therefore the volume of water that can be accessed under normal circumstances without the installation of additional infrastructure.

Related: dead storage capacity

Synonym:

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streamflow

The flow of water in streams, rivers and other channels.

Synonym: flow

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surface water

Includes: (a) water in a watercourse, lake or wetland and (b) any water flowing over or lying on land: (i) after having precipitated naturally or (ii) after having risen to the surface naturally from underground.

Source: Water Act 2007 Part 1 Section 4

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sustainable diversion limit

The limit on quantities of surface water and groundwater that can be taken for consumptive use from Murray Darling Basin water resources, having regard to environmental, social and economic impacts.

Source: Derived from the Water Act 2007 Chapter 5.05

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TDS

total dissolved solids

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total dissolved solids

The sum of all particulate material dissolved in water. Usually expressed in terms of milligrams per litre (mg/L). It can be measured by evaporating the solvent and measuring the mass of residues left or may be estimated from the electrical conductivity of the water.

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total storage capacity

The entire volume of water contained by the water storage at full supply level; equal to the sum of the accessible storage capacity plus the dead storage capacity. See the water storage diagram for more information.

Related:

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transpiration

The release of water vapour from parts of plants, especially through the stomata of leaves.

Related: evapotranspiration

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unconfined aquifer

An aquifer whose upper surface is a watertable that is free to fluctuate in equilibrium with atmospheric pressure.

Source: Modified from USGS

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unregulated river

A river where there is no entitlement system at all or where there is an entitlement system that does not allow orders to be placed for upstream release of a licensed allocation. Note: the term 'river' can be replaced with 'channel' and retain the same meaning.

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urban water

The total residential, commercial, municipal, industrial and other water supplied by urban water utilities.

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water access entitlement

A perpetual or ongoing entitlement to exclusive access to a share of water from a specified consumptive pool as defined in the relevant water plan.

Source: Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Water Initiative Schedule B(ii)

Equivalent: water market equivalent terms

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water access entitlement trade

A transaction to transfer a water access entitlement from one legal entity to another, with or without a change in location, perpetually or for a specified term (i.e. lease).

Equivalent: water market equivalent terms

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water allocation

The specific volume of water allocated to water access entitlements in a given season or given accounting period, and defined according to rules established in the relevant water plan.

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water allocation trade

A transaction to transfer a water allocation from one legal entity to another, with or without a change in location, for the remaining water year (by default) or for a specified term that may be less than the end of the water year or carried over to subsequent years (i.e. lease).

Water allocation trade is used in preference to temporary trade in the National Water Initiative.

Synonym: planned environmental water

Equivalent: water market equivalent terms

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water management area

An area (however described) used by an agency of the Commonwealth or an agency of a State for the purposes of managing surface water or ground water.

Note: The following are examples of water management areas:

(a) river basins;

(b) catchments;

(c) aquifers;

(d) water sources;

(e) sustainable diversion limit resource units.

Source: Water Regulations 2008 Schedule 3 Part 1

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water quality

The physical, chemical and biological characteristics of water. Water-quality compliance is usually assessed by comparing these characteristics with a set of reference standards. Common standards used are those for drinking water, safety of human contact and the health of ecosystems.

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water reform

Actions to achieve a more cohesive national approach to the way Australia manages, measures, plans for, prices, and trades water.

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water resource

All natural water (surface water or groundwater) and alternative water sources, such as recycled or desalinated water, that has not yet been abstracted or used.

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water resource plan

A plan for the management of a water resource.

Related: water sharing plan

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water restrictions

Any constraints or restrictions placed on water use by an infrastructure operator, local council, or State or Territory Government.

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water right

A generic term for the range of different tradeable and non-tradeable water rights across Australia. These might include, but are not limited to, water access entitlements, water allocations, water use rights, delivery rights, irrigation rights and works approvals.

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water sharing plan

A legislated plan that establishes rules for managing and sharing water between ecological processes and environmental needs of the respective water source (river/aquifer). It manages water access licences, water allocation and trading, water extraction, operation of dams, management of water flows, and use and rights of different water users.

Related: water resource plan

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water trade

A transaction to buy, sell or lease a water right, in whole or in part, from one legal entity to another.

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water use right

A right that allows use of water by specifying location of the use (plot) and/or purpose of the use.

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watertable

The groundwater surface in an unconfined aquifer or confining bed at which the pore pressure is atmospheric. It can be measured by installing shallow wells extending a few metres into the saturated zone and then determining the water level in those wells.

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wetland

An area of land whose soil is saturated with moisture either permanently or intermittently. Wetlands are typically highly productive ecosystems. They include areas of marsh, fen, parkland and open water. Open water can be natural or artificial; permanent or temporary; static or flowing; and fresh, brackish or salt. Wetlands may include areas of marine water, as long as the depth at low tide does not exceed six metres.

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