Most, if not all, rural or commercial farming operations have a water allocation or a water licence in place to allow the lawful taking of (or interfering with) water in connection with those operations.

Water Licence

​A water licence is an authority granted to a landowner under the Water Act 2000 to take and/or interfere with water from a specified location (being surface water, overland flow water or underground water).  For example, water in a watercourse, lake or spring may be required for:​

  • stock or domestic use on lands that do not adjoin a watercourse, lake or spring;
  • irrigation;
  • industrial or commercial use;
  • storing water behind a weir; or
  • impounding water behind a storage structure.

​Importantly, water licences are attached to land and therefore the water taken under the licence may only be used on the land to which the licence is attached.

This also means that when the land in question is sold, the water licence is transferred with the land to the buyer at settlement.

It is an offence to take, supply or interfere with water without the required licence.  If you need to make an application for a water licence, or if you intend to purchase or sell land to which a water licence is attached, please feel free to contact our Commercial & Property team for more information.

Water Allocation

​A water allocation is a separate, tradable commodity which does not attach to any specific parcel of land.  Each water allocation has a title (separate from a land title) which grants the holder of the title the authority to take water from a specified location.

All water allocations are noted in the Water Allocations Register, which records attributes such as ownership, location, purpose, volume and any conditions required by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines and/or Sunwater.

Unlike water licences, water allocations can be bought, sold and leased independently of landholdings, However, such water allocation trading is restricted by specific rules outlined in the relevant water legislation and formal approval from the Department of Natural Resources and Mines may be required.

Further, as water allocations are assets separate from the land, they are considered to be personal property and can result in tax, duty and estate planning implications for the allocation holder.

If you are considering buying, selling or leasing a water allocation, please feel free to contact our Commercial & Property team for more information on (07) 4963 2000 or via our online contact form.

Rebecca Rutland
Business & Property