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National Water Account 2018

Adelaide: Water rights

  • Water rights are authorised under South Australia's Natural Resources Management Act 2004 and by water licences issued to users.
  • Water allocation plans set the objectives and principles for allocating and transferring water rights and managing activities that affect prescribed water resources.


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


Operating rules and constraints

  • Water allocation plans set the objectives and principles for allocating and transferring water rights and managing activities that affect prescribed water resources.
  • Water-affecting activity permits are used to manage activities that can potentially have adverse impacts on the condition of water resources.


Water entitlements, allocations, and other statutory water rights

  • The abstraction and use of water is authorised by water rights under South Australia's Natural Resources Management Act 2004 (the Act) and by water licences issued to users (water access entitlements).
  • Native title holders, as determined under the Australian Government Native Title Act 1983, can take water for cooking, washing and drinking purposes.


Water licences

  • Prescribed water resources areas covered by a water allocation plan have water licences on issue. Only in the Dry Creek Prescribed Wells Area (PWA) are there water licences issued without an approved allocation plan in place.
  • Water licences for prescribed water resources are bundled into a single licence and are not subject to formal annual allocation annoucements but are deemed to be 100% of the volume of the water licence as at 1 July each year.
  • In contrast to the bundled licences in the region's prescribed water resources, water licences in the River Murray Prescribed Watercourse are unbundled and are managed as four separate instruments: a water access entitlement, water allocation, water resource works approval, and site use approval.
  • The legislative history of all prescribed resources and gazette notices in South Australia can be accessed at the Department for Environment and Water website.


Rollover allocations

  • Unused water allocations at 30 June each year are forfeited, but the volume forfeited forms credits that are used to calculate partial carryover into the next year. 
  • The McLaren Vale PWA, the Barossa Prescribed Water Resources Area (PWRA) and the Western Mount Lofty Ranges PWRA allow carryover up to a maximum percentage of the annual allocation as detailed in the relevant water allocation plan.
  • In the River Murray Prescribed Water Course (PWC), carryover of allocations on a Class 6 entitlement (for urban water supply) is not permitted according to the River Murray PWC Water Allocation Plan. Carryover of unused allocations for Class 3a water access entitlements (used in the Adelaide region for irrigation purposes) is governed by the River Murray Private Carryover Policy.


Recharged water credits/allocations

  • Recharged water refers to water that is actively injected into groundwater.
  • Following a recharge period, a portion of this water is available to be extracted as a recharge water credit and can be carried over from previous recharge periods. A water access entitlement and water allocation are then issued to allow extraction of all, or part of, the recharge water credit during the water year.
  • This arrangement is called managed aquifer recharge (MAR). The conditions associated with allocating and carrying over recharge credits are described in the relevant water allocation plans.


Trades and water rights transfers

  • In the Adelaide region, water trading can occur within a prescribed water resources area according to the rules set out in the relevant water allocation plan and the Act.
  • Water trade cannot occur outside of, or between, the prescribed water resources.
  • Trades are assessed by the South Australian Department for Environment and Water based on the principles and objectives stated in the relevant water allocation plan.
  • Trade restrictions in the prescribed water resources areas are contained in the relevant water allocation plans usually under the heading ‘transfer criteria’.