Water rights

Operating rules and constraints

Control of water abstraction within the Perth region is exercised by the Western Australian Department of Water through allocation planning and licensing arrangements. Water can be abstracted from designated surface and groundwater management areas within the region when a licence has been issued. Licensees with annual allocations of greater than 50 ML are required to have approved meters for abstracting water and report the amount of water abstracted on a yearly basis.

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

In the Perth region, the Department of Water manages all water restrictions, including domestic garden bore use. Further information can be found on the Department of Water website.

Water entitlements and other statutory water rights

Under the Western Australian Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 (the Act) a licence is required to abstract water in proclaimed surface water and groundwater areas. The Act also requires all artesian bores to be licensed for their construction and the abstraction of water.

Licences to abstract water are administered by the Department of Water. Licences usually specify the conditions, length of tenure, and the maximum volume of water that may be abstracted. This volume is referred to as the water entitlement. The department conduct assessments to ensure licencees comply with licence conditions. 

For agricultural use, the maximum volume of water that may be abstracted annually is determined by applying a standard volume per hectare for the particular crop to the number of hectares to be irrigated.

The Act has provisions for water abstraction under a riparian right, which is a right to abstract water for specific uses attached to land ownership (e.g., stock and domestic use). It is not itself a 'right to use water'.

A licence to abstract water is not required for the following groundwater uses:

  • fire-fighting 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 where small volumes of water are abstracted from the water table aquifer (usually for building construction).
Harvey Water Irrigation Scheme

Harvey Water holds a bulk water licence to abstract water that is stored in, and released from, surface water storages owned by the 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. Members of the Harvey Water Irrigation Scheme hold shares in the cooperative and a corresponding certificate of entitlement that is proportional to their shareholding.

Water allocations

Individual users

As discussed in Water entitlements, the Department of Water issues licences that specify a maximum volume of water that may be abstracted. Unless restrictions are announced, water may be abstracted up to the maximum volume specified on the licence. That is, water allocations are generally assumed to equal 100% of the annual water entitlement.

For more detail, please refer to the Department of Water website.

Urban water system

The Water Corporation manages the urban water system, which is subject to licence agreements for abstraction of water from surface water storages and bore fields. One of the conditions of the licence agreement is that the maximum amount of water available for abstraction is announced by the Minister for Water on an annual basis. The announced allocation is made after a review by the Department of Water of the status of the surface water storages and aquifers within the Perth region in October of the reporting year.

The total surface water allocation announcement is assumed to equal 100% of the maximum volume specified on the water entitlement, unless an announcement is made to restrict abstraction to less than 100%.

Harvey Water Irrigation Scheme

The Department of Water considers the status of the irrigation supply storages to determine the water available for allocation under Harvey Water's licensed water entitlement. Water allocated to Harvey Water under its entitlement is then made available to individual members of the cooperative under the conditions set out in its articles of association.

Trades and water rights transfers

Water market rules: interstate trading

The Act does not permit interstate trade.

Water market rules: inter-valley and within-valley trading

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

More information on water trading in Western Australia can be found on the Department of Water website.

Harvey Water Irrigation Scheme

Members of the Harvey Water irrigation cooperative can trade their water allocations in accordance with the cooperative's rules, provided both parties are members of the cooperative. Members 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.

For more details, please refer to the Harvey Water website.

Restrictions on trade

No restrictions on water trades in addition to those described above were in place during the 2012–13 year.