Water access licences (WALs) entitle licence holders:
- to specified shares in the available water within a particular water management area or water source (the share component), and
- to take water at specified times, rates or circumstances from specified areas or locations (the extraction component).
WALs may be granted to access the available water governed by a water sharing plan under the Water Management Act 2000.
Water sharing plans establish rules for sharing water between the environmental needs of the river or aquifer and water users, and also between different types of water use such as town supply, rural domestic supply, stock watering, industry and irrigation.
It is important to note that a WAL does not confer a right on any person to use water for a particular purpose or to construct or use a water supply work. Water can only be taken under a WAL by a nominated water supply work. Use of water on land also generally requires a current water use approval. For more information, go to Approvals.
Applying for water access licences or receiving replacement water access licences
If you want information on:
- how to apply for a new water access licence in water sharing plan areas*, go to Applying for a new water access licence
- how to apply for a new water licence or the trade of water licences and allocations outside water sharing plan areas*, go toWater Act 1912
- the replacement of most existing Water Act 1912 licences by water access licences and approvals when a water sharing plan commences, go to Licence conversion
*To find out whether a river or aquifer (groundwater) is subject to a water sharing plan, go to Which Act applies or commenced water sharing plans. Alternatively, contact Advisory Services on 1800 353 104 or email email@example.com.
Features of water access licences
The Water Management Act 2000 recognises that a water access licence is a valuable asset. Water access licences under the Water Management Act 2000 differ from licences under the Water Act 1912 as they:
- provide a clearly defined entitlement listed on a public Water Access Licence Register that is separate from land ownership
- separate the entitlement to access water from the approvals associated with water supply works and the use of water.
'Continuing' water access licences provide:
- a clearly defined right to a share of the available water in a particular water source
- increased opportunities to trade water through the separation of land and water rights.
Categories of water access licences
Water access licence categories help define the priorities between different access licences, the conditions that apply to them and, in the case of specific purpose category licences, define how water may be used. They include:
- regulated river (high security) access licences
- regulated river (general security) access licences
- regulated river (conveyance) access licences
- unregulated river access licences
- aquifer (groundwater) access licences
- estuarine water access licences
- coastal water access licences
- supplementary water access licences
- major utility access licences
- local water utility access licences
- domestic and stock access licences.
Categories of access licence may be prescribed by the regulations. Subcategories of any category of access licence may also be prescribed by the regulations.
Applications may be made for the following specific purpose access licence (subject to any restrictions contained in a relevant management plan) as follows:
|Category of access licence||Subcategory||Purpose|
|Local water utility||Domestic and commercial||Domestic consumption and commercial activities|
|Domestic and stock||Domestic||Domestic consumption|
|Unregulated river||Town water supply||Supply to communities for domestic consumption and commercial activities|
|Regulated river (high security)||Town water supply||Supply to communities for domestic consumption and commercial activities|
|Aquifer||Town water supply||Supply to communities for domestic consumption and commercial activities|
|Any category||Aboriginal cultural||Aboriginal cultural purposes|
Applications can also be made for specific purpose access licences if a management plan provides for these applications.
Security interests (such as mortgages) cannot be registered over specific purpose licences.
Tenure of water access licences
The reference to "tenure" on a water access licence certificate indicates the duration of the licence. An access licence ceases to be in force on the date that the cancellation of the licence is recorded in the Access Register.
- A "continuing" water access licence is granted in perpetuity, which means it does not need to be renewed. It is typically used for a commercial purpose (such as irrigation or industrial use). "Continuing" water access licences include supplementary water access licences issued for regulated rivers.
- A specific purpose water access licence (eg for town water or domestic and stock purposes) must be cancelled when the purpose for which the licence was issued ceases.
Irrespective of the type of tenure, a water access licence can be suspended or cancelled if there is a breach of the licence conditions or other non compliance.
The WAL Register and WAL certificates
The Water Access Licence Register has a separate record for each water access licence issued (called a water access licence folio). The online register is administered by Land and Property Information (LPI).
LPI issues a duplicate of the water access licence folio – called the water access licence certificate – to the licence holder, or any other party entitled to hold the water access licence certificate (e.g. a mortgagee). In the case of a former joint water supply authority, where there are a number of separate holders and registered interests, certificates will only be issued where all parties agree on who should hold it.
Water access licence certificates are valuable legal documents which should be stored carefully. Usually, a new licence certificate or edition of the certificate is generated each time a new dealing is registered.
Changes to information on the Water Access Licence Register about the licence holder (through a transfer of a licence) and security interests (such as mortgages or caveats over the licence and any term transfer arrangements) are managed directly by LPI. The lodgement forms can be obtained from the LPI website or office.
Changes as a result of other water dealings (eg. subdivisions, change of location or licence category) must be approved by the NSW Office of Water before they can be registered on the Water Access Licence Register.
For forms to apply to undertake these changes and guides to filling out the forms see Applications and fees.
Components of water access licences included in a water access licence certificate
The Water Access Licence Register and water access licence certificates include the names of the licence holder/s, type of tenancy if more than one holder, category of licence, encumbrances, any water dealings (except water allocation) and the licence details such as the share component, extraction component and nominated works.
For more information on these components of water access licences go to the Guide to the components of water access licence certificates (PDF, 512.85 KB).
The NSW Water Register
The online NSW Water Register maintained by the NSW Office of Water provides some information on water access licences and other consents and activities under the Water Management Act 2000, including:
- water access licence conditions
- available water determinations
- water trading statistics including water allocation assignments (formerly known as temporary trades) and assignment of shares (formerly known as permanent trades)
- summaries by water source of number of licences, available water determinations and water usage
- replacement of former Water Act 1912 licences with water access licences when a water sharing plan commences.