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National Water Account 2016

Adelaide: Water access and use

Surface water and groundwater allocations have remained relatively unchanged over the past two years. Nonetheless, 2015–16 saw a large decrease in the volume of water diverted from surface water storages in the Western Mount Lofty Ranges to the urban water system and an increase in the use of water imported into the region. Groundwater extractions also increased.

 


Water rights, entitlements, allocations, and restrictions

Kangaroo Creek Reservoir, SA (Bureau of Meteorology © SA Office)

Introduction

This note provides information about the water access rights granted by jurisdictions to the users of the Adelaide region's water resources and the associated allocation announcements and abstractions.

The 2016 Account acknowledges that the legislative water resource management frameworks relating to Australian water rights vary greatly across jurisdictions, sometimes making comparisons difficult. To facilitate meaningful comparisons between the water accounting reports included in the 2016 Account, the Bureau has developed and applied an accounting concept to classify and report water entitlements within a water asset/water liability framework.

According to that framework, water rights for the Adelaide region for the 2015–16 year have been classified as shown below.

Surface water rights

Surface water rights in the Adelaide region during the 2015–16 year refer to surface water supply for:

  • individual users—8,659 ML
  • urban water system—143,045 ML.

In the Adelaide region, surface water allocations for the urban water system and individual users are equal to 100% of the water access entitlement.

An entitlement of 143,045 ML is held by SA Water to source water from the Western Mount Lofty Ranges Prescribed Water Resources Area (PWRA). This volume has remained relatively unchanged over the last three years.

Individual users have access to surface water from the Barossa and Western Mount Lofty Ranges PWRA, and the Little Para Prescribed Watercourse (PWC), generally for agricultural and stock and domestic purposes.

The volume of surface water allocations and volumes of diversion for the 2015–16 year, compared with the previous two years are shown in Figure S12. The percentage shows the ratio of diversion to the allocation announcement. Non-allocated diversions to the urban water system are also shown in Figure S12.

Figure S12 Surface water allocations and diversions in the Adelaide region for the years ending 30 June 2014 to 2016
Figure S12 Surface water allocations and diversions in the Adelaide region for the years ending 30 June, from 2014–2016
 

 

Figure S12 shows that while surface water allocations remained relatively similar to those reported in the previous years, there was a shift in the water sources diverted to the urban water system compared against previous years. 

Over the last two years, below-average rainfall in the Adelaide region has contributed to declining natural inflows to the surface water storages and resulted in reduced water availability. To balance declining water resources, more water was imported from the River Murray, while less water (74%)  was diverted from the Western Mount Lofty Ranges PWRA compared against the previous year. Water is diverted from the River Murray into surface water storages in the region under a Class 6a water access entitlement and is accessed by the urban water system (under non-allocated diversion: urban system). In 2015–16, 128,010 ML of River Murray water was diverted by the urban water system compared with 50,822 ML in 2014–15 and 26,626 ML in 2013–14.  

The volume reported as diversions by individual users has increased since the 2013–14 year, due largely to the commissioning of the Western Mount Lofty Ranges PWRA plan. Water diversions from this resource were previously reported under other statutory rights.

Figure S13 shows the annual allocation announcement to individual users for each licence purpose for the 2015–16 year.

 

Figure S13 Surface water allocation to individual users for each licence purpose
Figure S13 Surface water allocation to individual users for each licence purpose
 

 

Groundwater rights

Groundwater rights in the Adelaide region during the 2015–16 year refer to groundwater supply for:

  • individual users—103,651 ML.

The volume of groundwater allocation and extraction for the 2015–16 year compared with the previous two years is shown in Figure S14. The percentage shows the ratio of extraction to the allocation announcement which is 100% of the entitlement. Non-licensed extractions to the irrigation scheme and under other statutory rights are also shown in Figure S14.

 

Figure S14 Groundwater access entitlements, allocations and diversions in the Adelaide region for the years ending 30 June 2014 to 2016
Figure S14 Groundwater access entitlements, allocations and diversions in the Adelaide region for the years ending 30 June, from 2014–2016
 

 

Groundwater allocation announcements only exist in the Adelaide region for individual users. Approximately 80% of licences issued are for irrigation. Other licence purposes include recharge water credits, industrial, recreational, and stock and domestic use.

'Allocated extractions: individual users' has remained close to 50% of allocation over the past three years but increased in 2015–16 compared with 2014–15. Extractions made from the Western Mount Lofty Ranges PWRA were reported under extractions: statutory rights for the 2013–14 year but, as the licensing process matures, these extractions have been reported as an allocated extraction since the 2014–15 reporting year.

Recycled water supplied to irrigation after temporary storage in aquifers is reported as non-allocated extraction: irrigation and has changed little from year to year.

Figure S15 shows the annual allocation announcement to individual users for each licence purpose for the 2015–16 year. Volumes for Western Mount Lofty Ranges PWRA are reported as unspecified class because information about the licence purpose was not available.

 

Figure S15 Groundwater allocation to individual users for each licence purpose
Figure S15 Groundwater allocation to individual users for each licence purpose
 

 

Water market activity

Irrigation (iStock © Phillip Minnis)

 

In the Adelaide region, trade or lease of water entitlements and allocations do not occur between prescribed areas but can occur within them if they are managed under a water allocation plan.

Accordingly, surface water trade reported for the Adelaide region during the 2015–16 year includes trades within both the Barossa PWRA and the Western Mount Lofty Ranges PWRA.

For groundwater, trade has been reported within the following groundwater resource areas:

  • Barossa PWRA
  • McLaren Vale Prescribed Wells Area
  • Northern Adelaide Plains Prescribed Wells Area
  • Western Mount Lofty Ranges PWRA.

 

Table N32 Information on the surface water and groundwater trade in the Adelaide region during the 2015–16 year
TransactionTransaction typeNumber of licencesVolume (ML)
surface water entitlement trade within regiontrade9548
groundwater entitlement trade within regiontrade1904,433
groundwater entitlement trade within region lease26711
groundwater allocation trade within region trade65791
Total 2906,483

 

Water use

Murray River, South Australia (istock © Robyn Brody)

Economic, social and cultural benefit

Surface water and groundwater are used for economic purposes in the Adelaide region including urban water supply and private water supply for stock, rural domestic, irrigation, commercial, and industrial purposes. For a summary of the water volumes allocated for various economic purposes within the region, refer to Surface water rights and Groundwater rights.

Social and cultural uses are not typically covered by water rights, even in prescribed areas. Stock and domestic water use, including Indigenous use, is considered a basic right. These rights are described in the South Australian Natural Resources Management Act 2004, the Australian Government Native Title Act 1983, and the notice of authorisation to take water for stock and domestic purposes and for native title purposes (published in the South Australian Government gazette).

Social and cultural water use is licensed in specific instances as detailed in the relevant water allocation plan. For example, stock and domestic groundwater use is licensed in the Northern Adelaide Plains Prescribed Wells Area. There are also a small number of water licences for recreational use in the Little Para Prescribed Watercourse and the Barossa PWRA. For further information refer to the relevant water allocation plan:

Environmental benefit

Information on legislative, administrative and governing arrangements of environmental water in the region is available in the Environmental water management section of the 'Region description'.

In the Adelaide region, water for environmental benefit is provided according to three different environmental water management scenarios:

  • planned unregulated surface water
  • planned partly regulated surface water
  • planned groundwater.

Planned unregulated surface water

Environmental water determination and commitment

In the planned unregulated surface water situation, environmental water requirements are met by controlling the water access regime through water allocation plans.

Water allocation plans consider the capacity of the water resource to meet demands and the needs of water-dependent ecosystems in developing rules and principles for allocating water resources.

In the Adelaide region, currently only the surface waters of the Barossa and Western Mount Lofty Ranges PWRAs are managed by a water allocation plan.

The Barossa PWRA Water Allocation Plan identifies ecological flow requirements for water-dependent ecosystems in three reaches of the North Para River that are located within the managed area. The ecological flow requirements considers different flow bands (baseflow, freshets, pool connection, etc.) and identifies target streamflow regimes (volume, timing, and frequency) for each of these flow bands. The ecological flow requirements for each reach are described in more detail in the Plan (AMLRNRMB: 12–13: tables 4–6) and were developed to ensure that the frequency and seasonality of streamflows closely resembles what would occur naturally. The applicable threshold flow rates are described in more detail in principles 63–64 of the Plan (AMLRNRB: 49-50).

Similarly, the Western Mount Lofty Ranges PWRA Water Allocation Plan details environmental water provisions that aim to maintain water-dependent ecosystems at an acceptable level of risk. This target is expected to allow indicator populations to be self-sustaining. Environmental provisions are detailed in sections 2.3–2.5 of the plan and include managing the impacts of water extractions through the use of threshold flow rates and reservoir releases (see below regarding SA Water's environmental commitment).

Environmental water outcomes

Although the Barossa PWRA Water Allocation Plan describes target streamflows and rules associated with water licences to achieve this, these regimes are not used for monitoring or compliance.

The Western Mount Lofty Ranges PWRA Water Allocation Plan was adopted on the 17 September 2013. Information on environmental releases for the National Water Account was not available.

Planned partly regulated surface water

Environmental water determination and commitment

In the planned partly regulated surface water situation, environmental water requirements are met by operational releases from storages to control or influence flows. During the 2015–16 year, SA Water was issued with a water licence under the  Natural Resources Management Act 2004. This licence entitles SA Water to divert up to an annual maximum of 143,045 ML of surface water from the Western Mount Lofty Ranges PWRA for the purposes of public water supply. According to the licence conditions, SA Water will participate in an environmental flow trial with the objective of establishing timing, frequency, duration, and governance of environmental flows up to 16,500 ML per annum as defined under the plan.

Environmental outcomes

No information was available on the water released under the trial programme during the 2015–16 year.