32.1 Other statutory surface water rights

Supporting Information

This line item describes water rights where a water licence is not required to divert and use surface water. 

Rights to divert and use surface water where a water licence is not required are described in sections 124(4), 124(6), 128, 132 and 164N of the Natural Resource Management Act 2004 (South Australia), (the Act). Rights described in section 124 of the Act apply to the entire Adelaide region, whereas rights described in sections 128, 132 and 164N only apply to prescribed surface water resources. These water rights do not represent an entitlement and do not receive a formal allocation. Therefore the value of the right cannot be quantified, although the volume of surface water diverted under these rights can be quantified. 

The volume of surface water diverted under other statutory rights during the 2010–11 year was 2,728 ML. For more information on this volume see line item 17.6 Diversions - other statutory rights.

These water rights are described in more detail below.

Stock and domestic purposes

The surface water right described by section 124(4) of the Act allows the occupier of the land to take water from a watercourse that adjoins or runs through the land, and is used by the occupier of the land for domestic purposes or for watering stock. 

The only exception to this is where a water allocation plan excludes the operation of section 124(4) and a licence is required for stock and domestic purposes. However, this does not occur for surface waters within the Adelaide region.

Basic right

The surface water right described by section 124(6) of the Act allows taking of water for the purposes of drinking or cooking within the Adelaide region.

Water resources not prescribed

The surface water right described by section 124(1) of the Act allows a person who has lawful access to a watercourse to take water from that watercourse for any purpose in an area where that surface water resource is not prescribed, subject to conditions of sections 124(3)(4)(6) and (6a). Surface water resources in the Adelaide region that are not prescribed are located on the Adelaide Plains and include First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth creeks, Plain Dry Creek, Brownhill Creek, Keswick Creek, Sturt Creek and other minor watercourses.


Water taken in mining and quarrying operations in non-prescribed surface water areas do not need a licence to use this water. Where prescribed surface water resources are used for mining or quarrying purposes a water licence or another authorisation is required.

Section 128

Section 128 of the Act allows certain uses of water by notice of the Minister published in the South Australian Government Gazette. Authorisations outlined in section 128 may or may not represent an ongoing entitlement.

Section 132

Section 132 of the Act allows the Minister to prohibit or restrict the taking of water from prescribed or non prescribed surface water resources by notice published in the South Australian Government Gazette. A notice under section 132 is current for a period of up to two years. Further notices can follow. A notice under section 132 is considered to be a short-term management instrument that, in most cases, precedes longer term management options such as a water allocation plan.

Section 164N

Section 164N of the Act allows an existing user, following declaration of the water resources as prescribed and subject to a notice of restriction or prohibition under section 132, to continue to use water without a water management authorisation for a set period of time. Existing users are entitled to receive an authorisation to take water prior to new users being able to access water. The process of issuing authorisations under section 164N is undertaken in parallel to the development of a water allocation plan. 

Surface water rights described by sections 128 and 132 may or may not remain in place following the adoption of a water allocation plan as they are legally independent of a water allocation plan but can sometimes be used in conjunction with a water allocation plan to achieve specific purposes. In the Adelaide region this includes the Western Mount Lofty Ranges Prescribed Water Resources Area (PWRAs) and Prescribed Watercourses (PWC), which flow west from the Mount Lofty Ranges across the plains including:

  • Gawler River PWC
  • Little Para River PWC
  • River Torrens/Karrawirra Parri PWC
  • Onkaparinga PWC.