The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation promotes the sustainable and efficient use of water by issuing water licences and permits.
Different types of licences and permits authorise different activities. Licences and permits are subject to terms, conditions and restrictions.
In all areas of Western Australia, water licences are required for the abstraction of artesian groundwater. Artesian groundwater is ‘confined’ (under pressure) and often at considerable depth from the surface. It is not quickly ‘recharged’ with water (e.g. rainfall) to replenish the water abstracted. Therefore, careful management is necessary to prevent impacts from over-abstraction of the confined water resource.
In proclaimed areas of Western Australia, water licences are required for the abstraction of non-artesian or unconfined groundwater or surface water resources unless a valid exemption exists. Non-artesian or unconfined groundwater is normally close to the land surface, including that referred to as the ‘water table’.
Proclaimed water resources
Proclamation is a legal process that makes managing groundwater and surface water resources the department's responsibility.
Once an area is proclaimed, certain water users require a licence and/or permit.
Through the proclamation of certain groundwater and surface water areas, we can actively manage the water resources by:
- defining the volume of water available for licensing purposes from a particular resource
- issuing licences and permits under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 (RiWI Act) for various activities, such as the taking and use of water.
Some areas of the state are proclaimed to enable water licensing of non-artesian water groundwater (shallow unconfined resources, water table) and surface water where there is a current or expected high demand for abstraction of water resources. Careful management is needed to make sure the limited water resources remain available to existing licensed users and satisfy the water requirements of the environment.
View the proclaimed groundwater and surface water maps.
Water licences and permits
Licence to take water
A 5C licence to take water allows the licence holder to take a specified amount of water (the entitlement) from a proclaimed, and in certain circumstances an unproclaimed groundwater or surface water resource.
Surface water may be drawn from a watercourse (river, stream) or water body (lake, dam). Groundwater may be drawn from a well (bore) from an underground source or an excavation into the water table (soak).
A 5C groundwater or surface water licence authorises the ‘take or use’ of water for circumstances that include:
- abstraction of artesian (confined) groundwater in ALL locations of the state
- abstraction of non-artesian (shallow unconfined) groundwater in proclaimed areas of the state
- abstraction of surface water in proclaimed areas of the state.
Some areas of the state, where there is a current or expected high demand for water resources, are proclaimed enabling licensing of the taking of water from non-artesian groundwater (shallow unconfined resources, water table) and surface water, and of water abstraction works and other water resource affecting activities. Careful management is needed to make sure the limited water resources remain available to existing licensed users and satisfy the water requirements of the environment.
Licences for the construction of a well (bore)
Often issued in association with a groundwater licence to take water, we issue a separate licence for the construction of a well (bore).
The terms, conditions and restrictions of a well construction licence ensure adherence to different requirements for bore construction in relation to an artesian versus non-artesian groundwater resource.
We issue permits (sometimes in association with a separate licence to abstract surface water) to authorise interference or obstruction of the bed and banks of a watercourse or wetland in proclaimed areas and unproclaimed areas (in certain circumstances).
We will approve an application for a permit where the planned activity (involving disturbance of beds and banks of a watercourse) meets certain criteria including limiting impacts on other downstream water users and protecting environmental values.
Read about the types of licences and permits we issue.
Find out if you need a water licence or permit.
If you need multiple licence or permit approvals, access our one-stop shop assessment and approvals.
Difference between a licence to take water and a water entitlement
A licence to ‘take’ water (groundwater and surface water) is issued under section 5C of the RiWI Act.
A licence specifies:
- the name of the licensee
- the water resource
- the location of the property where the water will be sourced and used
- the water entitlement in kilolitres that can be taken each year
- the duration of the licence
- authorised activities
- any terms and conditions and restrictions relating to the taking and use of water.
A water ‘entitlement’ (a water allocation) is the annual quantity of water in kilolitres (kL) that the licensee (or an authorised third party) is entitled to take under a licence to take water. There is no guarantee that this volume of water will be available and of a suitable quality for the intended use. A qualified hydrogeologist can provide advice on the availability and suitability of water.