National Water Account 2019

South East Queensland: Water rights

  • Water licences are granted under the Water Act 2000 to take water and/or interfere with water.
  • Water licences and allocations for consumptive use are administered by the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy.

Diagram of the South East Queensland region describing water entitlements, water allocations, and water trading within the region.

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


Operating rules and constraints

  • Abstraction of water is controlled by the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy through allocation planning and water licensing arrangements. Water can only be abstracted and/or interfered with from designated areas within the region when a water authorisation (water allocation, license or permit) is issued.
  • Resource operations licences or distribution operations licences are required for operation of water supply scheme infrastructure and distribution of water to water allocation holders. Holders must comply with these licences for day-to-day operational, water sharing and seasonal water assignment rules.
  • Surface water licences are also issued for unsupplemented water, including water licences to take, licences to interfere and licences to divert.
  • Groundwater sources within the Lockyer Valley, Warrill Bremer Alluvial area, Watercourse Buffer Zone and Cressbrook Alluvial area are managed as groundwater management areas under the Moreton Water Plan. Groundwater resources within the Cooloola Sandmass are managed as groundwater management areas under the Mary Basin Water Plan.
  • Water restrictions are managed by the bulk water supply authority, Seqwater, the South East Queensland council water businesses (distributor-retailers), and the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy. Further information can be found on the Queensland Government water restrictions website.


Water entitlements and other statutory water rights

  • Under the Water Act 2000, water can be abstracted generally either under a statutory authorisation without an entitlement for certain purposes only (e.g. stock and domestic use) or under various types of licences and authorities referred to as water entitlements.
  • Supplemented and unsupplemented water entitlements are prioritised, managed, and administered separately.
  • Artesian and sub-artesian groundwater entitlements also have separate prioritisation, management, and administration arrangements.


Water allocations

  • Annual water allocations, known as supplemented allocations, are provided for all water users within water supply schemes. Allocation percentages are announced by resource operations licence / distribution operations licence holders on the first day of the water year (generally from 1 July–30 June unless otherwise specified) for supplemented entitlement holders. Additional announcements can be made during the year, but the allocation percentage cannot exceed 100% of the allocation volume, or be reduced below the initial allocation percentage.
  • Announced allocation percentages vary between water supply schemes and priority groups. Urban licence holders of supplemented entitlements generally have 'high priority' allocations, typically set at 100% of their allocated volume. Urban holders of supplemented entitlements have the same announced limit applied to their entitlement as other supplemented entitlement holders of the same priority entitlements.
  • Unsupplemented water (taken from the natural flow of a river or from groundwater) is managed separately; for example, unsupplemented water may be abstracted during announced periods based on flow thresholds that ensure environmental streamflows are maintained.


Trades and water rights transfers

  • There are three active water markets in Queensland: the water allocation market concerns the trading of regulated water access entitlements; the seasonal water assignment market deals with the seasonal (temporary) assignment of water allocations and other entitlements; and the relocatable water licence market concerns the relocation of water licences from one parcel of land to another.
  • Currently the South East Queensland region only conducts trade that involves surface water but markets for groundwater trading may be developed in the future.
  • Water allocations in Queensland are separate from land rights, and are partly or wholly tradeable and registered on the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy water allocation register. Relocatable licences can be partly or wholly traded after assessment and are specific to a water plan or zone within a water plan area.
  • The rules for water allocation trading (temporary trades referred to as 'seasonal water assignment') are detailed in the Water Regulation 2016, the four water plans for the region, and associated instruments. The rules specify geographic limits for trading that ensure water allocation security objectives and environmental flow objectives are achieved.