Water by-laws

Noongar peoples’ access to Public Drinking Water Source Areas (PDWSA) for Aboriginal customary purposes.

The water by-laws that protect Western Australia’s drinking water areas were amended in recognition that access to bushland and water source areas, in the south-west region, is of fundamental importance to the Noongar people. Public Drinking Water Source Areas (PDWSAs) are protected areas managed by the WA Government to ensure safe, good quality drinking water now and for the future.

As a required pre-condition for the Settlement, the Country Areas Water Supply Amendment By-laws 2016 and Metropolitan Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Amendment By-Laws 2016 were gazetted on 7 June 2016. See Government Gazette, WA No. 92.

From 7 June 2016 certain Aboriginal customary activities can now be lawfully conducted by Noongar people in PDWSAs, within the Settlement area. 

The amended by-laws define customary purpose as:

  1. preparing or consuming food customarily eaten by Aboriginal persons; or
  2. preparing or using medicine customarily used by Aboriginal persons; or
  3. engaging in artistic, ceremonial or other cultural activities customarily engaged in by Aboriginal persons; or
  4. engaging in activities incidental to a purpose stated in paragraph (1), (2) or (3).

Read the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation's Aboriginal customary activities in public drinking water source areas in the South West Native Title Settlement Areas – Water Quality Information Sheet 39 to learn more about the changes.

Implementation of the amendments

Once the Settlement commences and the Noongar Regional Corporations are in operation, they will work closely with the Water Corporation to create safe access within the PDWSAs. Currently, the Water Corporation can provide general direction about accessing PDWSAs within the Settlement area however, you are encouraged to first contact the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council

The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage can also assist with enquiries about Aboriginal heritage sites within PDWSAs.

Protecting public drinking water source areas

The amendments provide access to PDWSAs for defined purposes. However, many of the usual PDWSA restrictions still apply to priority areas or protection zones within a PDWSA. For example, no water-based activities such as fishing and marroning are permitted unless otherwise specified.
See the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation's  Operational policy 'Recreation within public drinking water source areas on Crown Land’ for general guidance or contact Water Corporation. 

Noongar Customary Activities within Public Drinking Water Source Areas (PDWSA) in the South West (Water Corporation). 

Page reviewed 21 July 2020