Water allocation plans

Water Allocation Plans in the Murraylands and Riverland region

What is a Water Allocation Plan?

A Water Allocation Plan (WAP) is a legal document that sets out the rules for managing the take and use of prescribed water resources to ensure resource sustainability. It is developed with the community, industry and key stakeholders for each water resource identified as being significant, or ‘prescribed’ under the t Landscapes Act, 2019 (formerly prescribed under the Natural Resources Act 2004). A WAP ensures that the needs of the environment are taken into account when determining how much water is made available for consumptive purposes (licensed and non-licensed). It sets the amount of water that will be available, how that water may be allocated to users, and the types of activities that are permitted with that water. Once a WAP is in place, water users can apply for a licence andtransfer water between users as well as a range of other activities subject to the rules and limits of the WAP.

Why are Water Allocation Plans important?

Water is a precious resource. There is a limit to how much is available for use on an ongoing basis, and so it is important to provide certainty to current and future users of water, particularly to those whose livelihoods depend on it. A WAP provides that certainty. WAPs give consideration to the environment, social and economic needs, and seek to ensure long term sustainability and security.

What is the Water Allocation Plan process?

1. Prescription of a water resource

Important water resources in South Australia are protected and managed by being ‘prescribed’ under the Landscapes Act 2019. Prescription means that the water resource must be sustainably managed to provide security for all water users, now and into the future.

2. Development of a WAP

For each prescribed water resource, a WAP must be developed by the relevant regional landscape board. A WAP must meet the needs of the environment and the community. To ensure this, scientific investigations of the water resource and extensive community engagement are included in the development of a WAP.

Once the WAP is drafted, there are three stages leading its adoption:

  1. The draft WAP is made available and public submission are called during a statutory consultation period.
  2. The draft WAP is amended based on public submissions received and presented to the Minister for Environment and Water for consideration. 
  3. The Minister adopts the WAP either with or without further amendments. 

The WAP must be reviewed within 10 years to ensure it is still meeting the needs of the environment and the community.

3. Implementation of a WAP: water allocation through licences and permits

Once the WAP is adopted by the minister it is implemented. Based on the rules set out in the WAP, water is allocated to existing and new users. Water users apply for a licence, which sets out their allocation and the conditions under which they can take and use water.

Section 53 (1) (f) of the Landscapes Act sets out that a WAP must provide for regular monitoring of the capacity of water resources to meet demands for water. A number of WAPs require licensees and permit holders to complete annual water use reports and collect samples of water from their licensed well(s). To assist in providing accurate water samples, please refer to the bore purging fact sheet and groundwater sampling fact sheet in the related links below.

Applying for a licence or permit

For more information on water licensing including obtaining allocations and/or transferring or varying licences, contact Berri Licensing on 8595 2053 or visit the Department for Environment and Water website.

Find out about permits in the Murraylands and Riverland region.

Related links