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Water Rights


The operating rules and constraints governing water entitlements, allocations, trades and transfers are provided on this page.


Operating rules and constraints

Control of water taking within the Perth region is exercised by the Department of Water through allocation planning and licensing arrangements. Water can be taken from designated surface and groundwater management areas within the region when a licence has been issued. Licensees with annual allocations of greater than 500 ML are required to have approved meters for taking of water and report the amount of water taken on a yearly basis.

Water Corporation manages the bore fields and reservoirs within the Perth region for public water supply. As part of their licensing arrangements, Water Corporation is required to comply with operational strategies, which include reporting on environmental impacts.

The Department of Water may limit the amount of water taken from water resources during periods of drought by applying water restrictions to licensees. 


Water entitlements

Under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914, a licence is required to take water in proclaimed surface water and groundwater areas. The Act also requires all artesian bores to be licensed for their construction (under section 26D) and the taking of water (under section 5C). Non-artesian bores in proclaimed groundwater areas must be licensed under sections 26D and 5C of this Act.

Licences to abstract water are administered by the Department of Water. Licences usually specify the conditions, length of tenure and the volume of water that may be taken. The volume is referred to as the water entitlement.

The Act has provisions for ‘riparian right’ use of water that is attached to land ownership. No licence is required to use water under these provisions. In addition, a licensed water entitlement is not required for the following water table groundwater uses:

  • firefighting purposes
  • cattle or other stock, other than those being raised under intensive conditions
  • domestic garden and lawn irrigation (not exceeding 0.2 hectares)
  • short-term dewatering activities taking small volumes of groundwater from the water table aquifer.

Harvey Water irrigation

The Department of Water issues water entitlements to Harvey Water, a private irrigators’ cooperative within the Perth region. Harvey Water holds a bulk water licence to take water that is stored in, and released from, reservoirs owned by Water Corporation.

Harvey Water’s legal right to bulk water is transferred to owners who have an equity entitlement to water via their shareholding in the cooperative. More specifically, members’ ownership rights in the cooperative are proportional to their individual water entitlement.


Water allocations

Each year the Department of Water considers the status of the supply reservoirs and aquifers within the Perth region to determine water allocations available for public water supply. The Department of Water issues licences that specify a volumetric allocation together with the purpose for which the water may be used.

For all other licences, annual allocations are prescribed in licence agreements, and amounts can be taken during the set licence year by the licensee up to the amount of the annual allocation.

For agricultural use, allocations are determined by applying a standard volume per hectare for the particular crop to the number of hectares to be irrigated. This represents the specific volume of water allocated to water access entitlements in a given year.

Harvey Water irrigation

The Department of Water considers the status of the irrigation supply reservoirs to establish what percentage of Harvey Water’s licensed water entitlement is available for consumptive use. Water is then allocated to individual members by the cooperative under the conditions set out in its Articles of Association. 


Trades and water right transfers

Water market rules: interstate trading

Based on the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914, interstate trade is not permitted. 


Water market rules: inter-valley trading

The Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 permits the trading or transferring of licences only within the same water management area, subject to compliance with the Act and other administrative issues. Trades or transfers cannot be made between different water management areas.

Harvey Water irrigation

Irrigators who are part of the Harvey Water irrigation cooperative can trade their water entitlements in accordance with the cooperative’s rules, provided both parties are members of the cooperative. Irrigators are prevented from trading water directly with parties outside the cooperative. However, the cooperative trades bulk water with the Water Corporation. This is permitted because the Water Corporation is a member of the cooperative. 


Restrictions on trade

No restrictions on trades or transfers in addition to those described previously were in place during the 2009-10 reporting period.