water access licences

Water access licences (WALs) entitle licence holders:

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: 

*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 water.enquiries@dpi.nsw.gov.au.

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:

'Continuing' water access licences provide:

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:

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 licenceSubcategoryPurpose
Local water utilityDomestic and commercialDomestic consumption and commercial activities
Domestic and stockDomesticDomestic consumption
Unregulated riverTown water supplySupply to communities for domestic consumption and commercial activities
Regulated river (high security)Town water supplySupply to communities for domestic consumption and commercial activities
AquiferTown water supplySupply to communities for domestic consumption and commercial activities
Any categoryAboriginal culturalAboriginal 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. 

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. 

For more detailed information go to the Registrar General's Directions website or information on the Water Access Licence Register. There is a nominal fee for each search on the Register.

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: