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National Water Account 2019

Ord: Water rights

  • Licences to take water for consumptive use are administered by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation.
  • The total licence entitlement is 905,000 ML/year, almost all of which is downstream of Lake Argyle for irrigation supply.

Ord region map with summary information. Water entitlements: licences to abstract water are administered by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation. Water allocations: 95% of water is allocated downstream of Lake Argyle. Water trades: trading can occur within the same water management area.

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


Operating rules and constraints

  • The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation control the taking of water through water allocation planning and licensing arrangements. Water can only be taken from designated water management areas within the region when a licence is issued.
  • Chapter 5 of the Ord Surface Water Allocation Plan defines the rules and conditions that apply to water licences for hydroelectricity generation, irrigation, the environment, and self-supply. The plan also outlines how water is managed during drought years, as well as potential modifications to rules as irrigation demands on water increase in the next few years (see Major water reforms in 'Climate and water').


Water entitlements and other statutory water rights

  • The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation administer water licences that usually specify the conditions, length of tenure, and the maximum volume of water that may be taken, referred to as the water entitlement.
  • Under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914, the Water Corporation holds a licence that regulates its operation of the Ord River Dam and the Kununurra Diversion Dam. The licence sets conditions on how water may be released from the storage for hydroelectricity generation and obliges the Water Corporation to operate storage levels so that the environmental water provisions for the lower Ord River are maintained.
  • Also under the Act, the Ord Irrigation Cooperative Limited holds a licence for the diversion of water from Lake Kununurra. The licence is issued for the purposes of distribution and supply to irrigators for irrigation use and for nonpotable commercial uses in areas serviced by the Stage 1 channel systems of the district.


Water allocations

  • The Ord Surface Water Allocation Plan area covers the Western Australian part of the Ord region. To best set environmental water provisions and water entitlement limits, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation subdivided the plan area into five subareas based on infrastructure and river channel morphology.


Map of 5 surface water subareas and water entitlements. Main Ord River is in the central north around Kununurra, annual water entitlement 750,000 ML. Carlton–Mantinea is along a section of the lower Ord River, annual water entitlement 115,000 ML. Dunham River is in the west, annual water entitlement 25,000 ML. Upper Ord is the entire southwest, annual water entitlement 15,000 ML. Tarrara–Carlton is to the northwest of Kununurra, annual water entitlement 0 ML.
Figure R10 Annual water entitlements for surface water resource areas of the Ord region


  • The current annual water entitlement is 905,000 ML/year. More than 95% of these water entitlements are from the Main Ord River and Carlton–Mantinea subareas downstream of Lake Argyle. No water entitlements are granted directly from the Tarrara–Carlton subarea as there is no provision for any developments and the soils and topography are not favourable for irrigation.
  • Annual water allocations are the quantity of water available after environmental water provisions and domestic requirements are met and are determined and announced by the department in April each year.
  • Groundwater entitlements are also administered by the department and these include allocations for the town supply of Kununurra and Halls Creek.


Trades and water rights transfers

  • The Act permits the trading or transferring of licences but only within the same water management area and subject to compliance with the other conditions of the Act and other administrative issues. Trades or transfers cannot be made between different water management areas.
  • Members of the Ord Irrigation Cooperative Limited can trade their water allocations within the irrigation area in accordance with the cooperative's rules, provided both trading parties are members of the cooperative. Members are prevented from trading water directly with parties outside the cooperative. For more detail please refer to the Ord Irrigation Cooperative Limited website.