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National Water Account 2017

Daly: Water rights

Water in the region can only be taken from designated water management areas when a licence is issued. Licences to take water for consumptive use are administered by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The maximum licence entitlement for the Oolloo Aquifer is 60,000 ML/year; water entitled to be taken from the Tindall Aquifer varies annually depending on flow in the Katherine River.


For further information about the region's water rights scroll down this page or click on the links below:



Operating rules and constraints

Under the Water Act 1992, the right to the use, flow, and control of the water in watercourses, wetlands, and underground water sources is vested in the Crown.

Within the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Water Resources Division administers the regulatory functions of the Act. This includes permits and licences for surface water diversion, groundwater extraction, and bore water drilling. This division also assesses compliance in relation to surface water diversion and groundwater extraction licences, construction or alteration of works that interfere with a waterway, bore construction permits, and the investigation of breaches under the Act.

The Controller of Water Resources (within the Department of Environment and Natural Resources) controls the taking of water through allocation planning and its surface and groundwater licensing arrangements. Water can only be taken from designated surface and groundwater management areas within the region when a licence is issued. Under the Water Allocation Plan: Oolloo Aquifer (draft) the maximum annual volume of water available from this source is 40,000 ML from the northern zone and 20,000 ML from the southern zone. For the Water Allocation Plan: Tindall Limestone Aquifer (Katherine) these limits are variable based on the flow of the Katherine River and are advised on an annual basis to all licence holders.

Water extraction licences include a condition that specifies that the Controller of Water Resources may limit the amount of water that may be taken at times of inadequate supply. Restrictions on water commence when water flow drops below predetermined river levels as advised in the water allocation plans.

In water allocation plan areas, water licences can be traded on a permanent or temporary basis, subject to the relevant trading rules.

For more information on operating rules, see Water Licensing and Permits on the Northern Territory Government website.


Water entitlements and other statutory water rights

Under the Water Act 1992, a licence is required to divert water from surface water in declared water control areas. The Act also necessitates that all bores within a water control district must be authorised by a bore construction permit.

Licences to abstract water are administered by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Licences specify the conditions, length of tenure, and volume of water that may be taken on an annual basis. The volume is referred to as the 'annual water entitlement'.

The Act also provides for the 'riparian right' use of water that is an incident of land ownership, and no licence is required to use water under these circumstances. The Act also exempts the following groundwater uses from requiring a licensed water entitlement:

  • taking water for fire-fighting purposes
  • watering cattle or other stock other than those being raised under intensive conditions
  • irrigating domestic gardens and lawns (not exceeding 0.2 ha).


Water allocations

The water year in the Daly region is 1 May–30 April. Annual water allocations represent the quantity of water available after environmental water provision and domestic requirements are met, and are determined and announced by the Controller of Water before 1 May each year. The Tindall (Katherine) and the draft Oolloo water allocation plans set down extraction limits for entitlements from the respective aquifers. These limits are updated annually for both aquifers.

The announced allocation is a percentage of the maximum annual entitlement prescribed in the licence. Licensees are entitled to take the full allocation amount, but must adhere to monthly limits during the year. Any unused allocation is forfeited and cannot be carried over to a subsequent water year.

For current annual entitlements, see the Water access and use note in 'Supporting information'.


Trades and water rights transfers

Water market rules: interstate trading

The Water Act 1992 regulates the trading and transferring of licences in the Northern Territory. All trades require the approval of the Controller of Water Resources, with any such approval being subject to the provisions in the water allocation plans and Clause 25 of the Act.

The powers of the Act are confined to the Northern Territory and therefore interstate trading is not permitted. 


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

Trading between zones within the same management area are permitted and are subject to compliance with the Act and other administrative issues and can only occur within the annual limit defined for this zone.


Restrictions on trade

No restrictions on trades or transfers in addition to those described previously were in place during the 2016–17 year.