Responsibilities of water licence and permit holders

Information about your obligations as a water licence or permit holder.
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The information in the frequently asked questions below principally refers to processes and approvals under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 (RiWI Act).

Although this information relates to licences and permits, the RiWI Act also restricts any unauthorised activity on Crown land that will obstruct, destroy, or interfere with the waters, bed, or banks of any watercourse.

Other legislation can apply to the activity you wish to undertake and it is your responsibility to ensure you have all the required approvals.

Frequently asked questions

I have a 5C licence to take water. What are my obligations?

As a licensee, it is important that you:

  • read the conditions of your water licence carefully and comply with them, as there are penalties for failing to do so
  • keep your licence in a safe place – it is an important legal document
  • take note of the expiry date – it is your responsibility to apply to renew the licence before its expiry
  • use water efficiently and responsibly, minimising impacts on the water resource.

As a licensee, it is important you contact us as soon as possible if:

  • you do not understand your water licence
  • the licence seems in any way incorrect
  • you believe you may not be able to comply with your licence terms, conditions and restrictions
  • any significant change in circumstance occurs during the licence period (this includes, for example, if you change the purpose for which you use water or plan to use the water on a different property).

Failure to comply with licensee responsibilities, including water licence terms, conditions and limits, can result in us undertaking compliance and enforcement activities. This might affect operations of your existing licensed development.

Find out more about our compliance and enforcement activities and water metering and measurement.

I have a 26D licence to construct or alter a well (bore). What are my obligations?

Keep your  licence to construct or alter a bore in a safe place and make a copy available to your driller before work commences. 

Before works commence:

  • Read your  licence carefully – ensure you understand and can comply with all conditions on your licence.
  • Ensure the contracted driller has the correct class certification to be drilling and constructing your bore.

If the construction program will not be completed while the licence is valid, or if you wish to change your construction program in any way, contact your local department office.

If you are replacing a failed or collapsed well (bore), then you should ensure the old well is properly decommissioned. For more information refer to Minimum construction requirements for water bores in Australia (third edition).

After works are complete:

I have a permit to interfere with bed and banks. What are my obligations?

Keep your permit in a safe place and make a copy available to your contractor before work commences.

Before works commences:

  • Read your permit carefully – ensure you understand and can comply with all conditions on your permit.
  • Ensure you have legal access to the land on which the works will occur.
  • For structures, seek the advice of an appropriately qualified and experienced contractor to ensure the safety of the design and your chosen method of construction.
  • Consider the impacts the works may have upstream or downstream of the site and be aware that you may be liable for any damage caused as a result of the works.

If the construction program will not be completed while the permit is valid, or if you wish to change your construction program in any way, contact your local department office.

After works are complete:

  • Keep the permitted works, facilities and equipment in good order.
  • Contact your local department office before carrying out maintenance or emergency work on permitted facilities.

I have to meter my water use. What are my obligations?

As a licensee you are required to measure, record, and report your water usage unless you have been granted an exemption from measurement.

You can read more information about metering regulation and how you can measure and report your take on the Water metering and measurement webpage.

As a licensee, your obligations regarding water metering:

  • Install an approved meter (or meters) that complies with the Rights in Water and Irrigation (Approved Meters) Order 2009, or use an approved alternative form of measurement. For more information, refer to the meter installation guide and Approved Meters Order fact sheet.
  • Record and report meter readings. Submit meter readings and water use data via Water Online.
  • Maintain your meter and ensure its accuracy by taking reasonable steps, including regular servicing and do not deliberately alter or damage a meter, its associated fittings, or pipework in a way that affects its accuracy.
  • Inform the department in writing, via Water Online or Form 8, within 30 days of installing the meter, providing details such as the installation date, meter location, make, size, type, serial number, and the meter reading following installation. Submit these details online via the Water Online Customer Portal.

Contact the department immediately if:

  • you may not be able to fit a meter within the timeframe specified (notify before the installation deadline)
  • you are unable to read your meter or report the meter readings by the due date for any reason
  • you think your meter may not be accurately recording water use
  • a meter is damaged or malfunctioning (report within 7 days)
  • a meter must be removed for maintenance, repair, or any other reason
  • a meter is replaced for any reason
  • you plan to drill new wells, construct new dams, or alter existing infrastructure, as you may need to apply for a license or permit to do this.

If I fail to meet my obligations as a licence or permit holder, what are the penalties?

Penalties for failing to meet your licensing obligations may include:

  • the cancellation, suspension or amendment of a licence or permit
  • the issue of a direction to carry out specific works or to limit your taking of water
  • the issue of an infringement notice
  • prosecution action.

We may refuse to renew your licence if we believe you will not comply with licence conditions.

If you are unable to comply with or do not understand any of the terms or conditions of your licence contact your local department office.

For more information go to the Water licensing compliance and enforcement page.

I plan to sell or lease my land to somebody else. Can they use my water licence to take water?

If you sell your property, the new owner does not automatically have rights to take water under your licence, even if the water entitlement has been included in the contract of sale.

If you lease your land to a third party, you may allow them to use water under your licence. You are responsible for the water use and they must comply with the terms, conditions and restrictions of the licence. In this circumstance there is no obligation to seek our approval of a formal agreement. However, an approved agreement would enhance the rights to the third party and provide some protection to the licensee.

For further information refer to water licensing trades, transfers and agreements.

Will my property be inspected?

We may access your property for routine inspection purposes or to determine if an offence has been committed.

Under s.71 of the Water Agencies (Powers) Act 1984 our officers may enter and re-enter property for routine inspection or maintenance and to take measures necessary to establish if an offence against the relevant Act is being committed.

Although officers are authorised to enter land for inspection purposes without giving prior notice, we support mutual cooperation and our visit for routine compliance monitoring purposes will usually be discussed with you prior to our visit.

Can I get another copy of my licence or permit?

You may request a copy of your licence (a $50 fee applies).

Be aware that the wording of conditions may be updated over time to improve clarity and certainty for licensees.

This means that a reprint may not be an exact replica of the original licence issued, however the intent of the conditions will remain the same.

Please contact your local department office.

Does the winter sprinkler switch-off apply to my water use activities?

Some licences, such as those for local governments, schools or small areas of pasture may have a condition restricting them to the times they can irrigate.

As these licences are licensed under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 and have their own terms, conditions and restrictions they are not bound by the same sprinkler by laws as household scheme or garden bores.