Water licensing exemptions

There are some activities that do not require a water licence or permit.
Last updated:

A water licence or permit is not required in the following circumstances:

Construct a well and take groundwater exemption

A licence is not required to construct a well or to take water if:

  • the development is within the water table (non-artesian) aquifer; and
  • water is only used for domestic purposes such as
    • domestic and ordinary use
    • watering an area of lawn or garden less than 0.2 ha
    • fire fighting
    • watering cattle or other stock not raised under intensive conditions as defined in section 21(4) of the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914.

Monitoring well exemption

A licence to construct a well is not required if:

  • the development is within the water table (non-artesian) aquifer; and
  • the well is only required for monitoring water level or water quality and not for abstraction purposes.

Installation of a water meter

In some cases, where measurement will provide minimal benefit to water resource management, licensees may be exempt from measuring their water take.

A licensee may be exempt from the requirement to measure the quantity of water taken under a licence if we are satisfied on reasonable grounds that it is impracticable to fit a meter and it is also inappropriate to use an alternative measurement method for measuring the quantity of water taken.

Dewatering exemption

A water licence is not required for dewatering purposes if:

  • the development is within the water table (non-artesian) aquifer; and
  • water is taken from the well solely for the purpose of removing underground water to facilitate construction or other activity (that is, dewatering) which does not include those activities that relate to the extraction of basic raw materials or result in the lowering of the natural ground level; and
  • the water is taken at a pump rate not exceeding 10 litres per second over a period of less than 30 consecutive days; and
  • the volume of water taken over the period does not exceed 25,000 kilolitres.

Surface water exemption (riparian right)

A water licence is not required to take surface water if the landowner/occupier of any land in direct contact with a watercourse or wetland requires water for:

Proclaimed areas

  • Domestic and ordinary use; and/or
  • Watering cattle/stock not raised under intensive conditions; and/or
  • To irrigate garden not exceeding 2 hectares (not used for commercial purposes), as long as the garden is part of the riparian land and is connected with a dwelling.

Unproclaimed areas

  • In unproclaimed surface water areas, to the extent that the flow of water in the watercourse or the amount of water in the wetland is not sensibly diminished for any other purpose.

Note: Permits to interfere with the beds and banks of a watercourse are required in proclaimed areas, regardless of whether a riparian right to take water exists.

Spring exemptions

Guideline: Spring exemptions is part of the department’s policy framework. The purpose of the guideline is to clarify interpretation of section 5(1)(a) of the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 (the Act). There is no change to existing legislation on the spring exemption. 

The guideline establishes a voluntary self-assessment process to assess whether section 5(1)(a) applies to a spring on a property. The guideline outlines the relevant considerations that need to be taken into account by landowners and occupiers of land when determining if the circumstances on their property meet the requirements of section 5(1)(a).

Field guide: Spring exemptions has also been established that should be used after you have read and are familiar with the definitions and guidance provided through the guideline.

The department strongly recommends that you complete the self-assessment process in the guideline and compile all relevant evidence to support your determination that your circumstances meet the requirements of section 5(1)(a) before you begin any activities relating to the take of water. This is important as the ordinary meaning of ‘spring’ is different to the definition of ‘spring’ under the Act.

In complex cases, or where you have uncertainty about the self-determination, you will need to contact the department or engage a suitably qualified water specialist to ensure the hydrological elements of section 5(1)(a) of the Act are appropriately considered. You will need to pay all costs to engage water specialists.

If a spring on your property satisfies all the considerations under section 5(1)(a) of the Act, then taking water from that spring will be exempt from regulation under Part III of the Act.

If a spring exemption applies, you should ensure:

  • the spring is not excavated as water must naturally rise to the surface
  • a dam is not constructed over the spring and reservoir water does not flood the spring.

You may need to measure or estimate the volume of water from the spring to ensure you only take the exempt volume of water.

If a spring exemption does not apply, then Part III of the Act applies (in proclaimed surface water areas) and you will need to apply to the department for a:

  • licence to take water (section 5C)
  • permit to interfere with bed or banks of a watercourse (section 17).

You must not undertake any activities until the department has granted the licence and/or permit authorising the taking of water or construction of works.

If you have any queries or require additional information, please contact our local office based on your property’s location.

Farm dam exemptions

A landholder can drain their land, or build a dam on their land without a water licence in proclaimed or unproclaimed surface water areas as long as:

  • water captured from draining the land where it is not stored on a watercourse or wetland, and where there is no sensible reduction (that is, a noticeable change) in the volume or flow in the watercourse or wetland
  • the exemption also applies in relation to ‘spring exemptions’ where water flowing from a spring can be utilised (from dam) without a water licence, provided that
    • the area of natural rising and flowing groundwater associated with a spring is fully contained within the property boundaries
    • does not intersect regional groundwater
    • is at the head (or start) of a watercourse
    • the capacity of the dam does not exceed the demonstrated yield of the spring
  • there are no significant environmental effects
  • the development is consistent with local by-laws.

Please contact your local regional office, call 1800 508 885 or email licence.enquiry@dwer.wa.gov.au to confirm your licensing requirements.

For more information go to the frequently asked question 'Is a licence to take water required for dams that collect run-off emanating from only one property?' on the Do I need a water licence or permit? page.