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National Water Account 2018

Canberra: Water rights

  • Licences to take water are administered by the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate for the ACT and by Department of Industry for the NSW portion of the region.
  • Total water access entitlement in the region is 82,324 ML, of which 71,000ML is for urban water supply.

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

Operating rules and constraints

Urban water restrictions

  • Icon Water, with the approval of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government, can impose urban water restrictions in the Canberra region.
  • The ACT Water Strategy 2014–44: Striking the Balance (ACT Water Strategy) guides management of the ACT's water supply, management, and catchment practices over the next 30 years, building on the achievements of the original ACT Water Strategy, Think Water, Act Water.
  • Water restrictions in the region are managed by Icon Water and Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council. During 2017–18, there were no water restrictions; however, permanent water conservation measures remain in place by Icon Water (since 1 November 2010) and Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Counci (since 1 November 2011).
  • Further information on water restrictions can be found on the Bureau's water restriction's site.

 

Murray–Darling Basin Cap

  • The Murray–Darling Basin Cap (the Cap) was established in 1995, introducing long-term limits on how much surface water could be taken from rivers in 24 designated river valleys (Cap valleys). The Cap is managed in accordance with Schedule E of the Australian Government Water Act 2007 (Water Act). The implementation of the Cap within a State or Territory is the responsibility of the concerned Government.
  • The Basin Plan sets sustainable diversion limits (SDLs), which represent the maximum long-term average annual volumes of water that can be taken for consumptive use on a sustainable basis from Basin water resources. It includes 29 surface water SDL resource units and 81 groundwater SDL resource units for the whole region.
  • Valleys managed under the Cap framework will transition to management within an SDL framework from 1 July 2019.
  

Figure R11 Surface water sustainable diversion limit (SDL) resource units in Canberra region
Figure R10 Surface water sustainable diversion limit (SDL) resource units in Canberra region
 

 

 Figure R12 Groundwater sustainable diversion limit (SDL) resource units in Canberra region
Figure R11 Groundwater sustainable diversion limit (SDL) resource units in Canberra region

 

Water entitlements and other statutory water rights

 ACT

  • A water access entitlement is a statutory instrument issued under the Water Resources Act 2007 (ACT) and represents a share of the water resources controlled by the ACT. It is expressed as either a volume; or a percentage share of the water available in a defined water management area (WMA) . In addition, a separate licence stating the location and use of water, is required to abstract water. 
  • The types of water access entitlements issued by the ACT Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate are described below.

 

Table R3 Water access entitlements issued by the ACT Government for the Canberra region 
Type of water access entitlementDescription
surface waterSpecifies the volume of surface water that the holder is entitled to use from a WMA, on an annual basis.
groundwaterSpecifies the volume of groundwater that the holder is entitled to use from a WMA, on an annual basis.
groundwater and surface waterSpecifies as a single total the combined volume of groundwater and surface water that the holder is entitled to use from a WMA, on an annual basis. For these types of water access entitlements, an associated licence may specify the amount that can be extracted as groundwater with the remaining volume being available from surface water.
urban water utilitySpecifies the volume of water that the holder is entitled to use on an annual basis, for the purpose of urban water supply to the region.

 

  • Within the ACT, some basic water rights exist that do not require a water licence. These include abstraction of surface water for stock and domestic purposes, rainwater harvesting via a rainwater tank and various short-term water uses as detailed in the Water Resources Regulation 2007 (ACT).

 

NSW

  • The Water Sharing Plan for the Murrumbidgee Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources (New South Wales Office of Water 2012a), which commenced in 2012, covers the region.
  • All NSW surface water licences specify volume and purpose and are attached to the land.

 

Water allocations

  • All water entitlement holders are entitled to abstract water as specified in the licences, subject to environmental flow conditions, unless restrictions are in place by relevant State/Territory authorities. Restrictions may be placed on water abstractions when the flow is unavailable.
  • For the NSW portion of the region, water allocation details are given in the Water Sharing Plan for the Murrumbidgee Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sources (New South Wales Office of Water 2012b), under the Water Management Act 2000.

 

Trades and water rights transfers

ACT

  • The Water Resources Act 2007 allows for interstate trades; however, the required mechanisms are not yet in place for this trading to occur.
  • The Water Resources Act 2007 allows for inter–valley trades. Water access entitlements can be traded within and between WMAs; however, water licences cannot be traded.
  • Water access entitlement trade between WMAs can only occur if the licence amount in the receiving WMA is not fully developed. Where trade can occur, groundwater entitlements are tradeable on the same basis as surface water entitlements.
  • Icon Water holds the urban water access entitlement from ACT Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate without any charge.  Trading of this entitlement or allocated water is not allowed.

 

NSW

  • There are no interstate trades of water permitted in the NSW-administered area of the region.
  • Inter-valley trading rules are defined in State legislation, water resource plans, and the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement.
  • Intra-valley trading rules are defined in State legislation and water resource plans.
  • Surface water trading within valleys is usually available within regulated systems.
  • Groundwater trading within an aquifer is available in the developed water resource plan.