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National Water Account 2018

Melbourne: Water rights

  • Water supply in the region is governed by the specific conditions of the bulk entitlements, environmental entitlements, water licences and water shares.
  • Formal water allocations are provided for shareholders in the Werribee and Bacchus Marsh irrigation districts.



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


Operating rules and constraints

Bulk entitlement conditions

  • A bulk entitlement is a legal right to take and use water granted under the Water Act 1989. Bulk entitlements can be held by water corporations, the Victorian Environmental Water Holder and other specified bodies defined in the Water Act.
  • Each bulk entitlement contains specific conditions governing the abstraction of water as set out in the Water Act 1989.
  • Typical bulk entitlement conditions include maximum annual and daily limits on the volume of water taken from a specific diversion point or water storage, and minimum passing flow requirements.
  • Conditions contained within each bulk entitlement are specific to that entitlement. All bulk entitlements are listed on the Victorian Water Register website.


Urban water restrictions

  • In times of severe water shortages, the urban water authorities in the Melbourne region can implement a regime of water restrictions ranging from Stage 1 (mild) to Stage 4 (severe). These restrictions are in accordance with their drought response plans.
  • The Victorian Minister for Water approves drought response plans, and water authorities are responsible for declaring water restrictions.
  • More information on urban water restrictions in the Melbourne region is available on the Bureau's Water Restrictions website. 


Water licence restrictions


Water entitlements and other statutory water rights

  • The Water Act 1989 is the legislation that governs the way water entitlements are issued and allocated in the Melbourne region.
  • There is a range of entitlements that may be issued by the Victorian Minister for Water including bulk entitlements, environmental entitlements, water licences, and water shares. Other statutory rights to water are not formally issued but exist under the Water Act for domestic and stock purposes by virtue of an individual's private ownership of or access to land.
  • The Water Act allows individuals to abstract water for domestic and stock purposes from a range of surface water and groundwater sources without a licence.
  • Some rights to water exist under separate legislation. For example, under Victoria's Country Fire Authority Act 1958 firefighters have the right to use and control the delivery of water for firefighting purposes.
  • The irrigation supply system operated by Southern Rural Water in the Werribee and Bacchus Marsh irrigation districts is a declared system under the Water Act. This means that irrigators and private diverters are supplied water under a water share, a delivery share, or a water use licence.
  • Elsewhere in the Melbourne region, individual private diverters (including irrigators) abstract their water from streams under a licence issued under Section 51 of the Water Act.
  • Rights may be suspended, reduced, increased, or otherwise altered after a water shortage has been declared under Section 33AAA(2) of the Water Act.


Water allocations

  • Within the Melbourne region, only water shareholders in the Werribee and Bacchus Marsh irrigation districts are provided with a formal allocation against their entitlements.
  • Southern Rural Water determines a seasonal allocation for water shareholders in the irrigation districts based on water available in storage, estimated inflows, and carryover commitments.
  • No annual allocations are made for bulk entitlements or water licences. The volume of water available for bulk entitlement in any year is governed by the amount of water in their share of the water system and the conditions and obligations included in their entitlement. Water availability under water licences is directly related to streamflow rates.
  • More information on water shares and water allocations are available on the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning website.


Trades and water rights transfers

  • Within the Melbourne region, water entitlements and allocations associated with the Werribee irrigation system can be traded.
  • Trade may occur within zones or between trading zones within the Werribee system, as well as trade to and from the Werribee water system to other Victorian water systems. Currently, trade of allocation is permitted from the Thomson–Macalister system (outside the Melbourne region) to the Werribee system under special conditions.
  • More information on trading rules within and between water systems in Victoria are provided in the Trading Rules for Declared Water Systems.
  • Take-and-use licences in unregulated systems may also be traded, but only within the same surface water catchment or groundwater management area (see the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning website for more information).