Water licensing fees - frequently asked questions

Answers to frequently asked questions on water licensing fees.
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For more information, please refer to Water licensing fees.

Why do we have water licensing fees?

The department has an important role in managing water resources. Licensing water use ensures the sustainable allocation of water both to benefit the community and protect the environment that depends on it.

Contemporary water management in all other Australian states recognises the principle of user-pays with water licensing fees paid by licensees. Water licensees derive benefit from the service, nevertheless it comes at a cost, which needs to be covered either by the taxpayer or through user-payments.

The impacts of climate change are requiring Western Australia to become more focused about how we use our precious water resources. With ground and surface water resources being affected by reduced rainfall, we are implementing new approaches to licensing to streamline assessment times and make information about water resources more available to ensure greater security for those with businesses reliant on water.

Part of this approach is the management of water sources, to ensure that they are sustainable and not over-allocated. Departmental resources are required to undertake these assessments. 

Licensing, monitoring and compliance activities are important to delivering greater security to water users, and it is appropriate that as beneficiaries they meet the cost to the State Government for this service.

The fees recover the costs associated with assessing water licence and permit applications. They are not a volumetric charge for a water entitlement.

Three tiers have been selected that best represent the effort in delivering the licensing service.

What are the fees associated with my water licence?

Fees are for the assessment of applications for licences and permits issued under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914. 

Fees are based on the effort required to assess an application and increase with the environmental impact and scientific complexity of the assessment. The department will determine applicable fees for each application type based on the level of risk assessment (low, medium or high).

Refer to the fee structure information for the application types and the associated fees for assessment.

How is the risk determined?

The level of risk is commensurate to the status of the water resource and the volume of water applied for. The higher the volume of water and the more the water resource is allocated, the higher the risk.

Applications that fall within the high risk category require more detailed assessment. This may include reviewing data or modelling reports and results and requesting further information as part of the assessment process. They require greater time and effort to process and this is reflected in the fee payable.

Applications in the low risk category are more straightforward, requiring less effort to complete and can be processed in less time.

Who decides how much to pay?

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation will advise you the fee payable shortly after your application is reviewed.

Risk-based fees are outlined in the fee structure. The fee bands reflect the regulatory effort that is require to assess and process applications for water licences and permits.

Who has to pay?

The fees apply to the mining and public water supply sectors.

Why the mining and public water supply sectors?

The mining and public water supply sectors are important users of water that derive a commercial benefit from their water licences and permits. Water licensed to these sectors is used in a range of industries including mining, petroleum, potable water supply.

When will the fees take effect?

Fees for the mining and public water supply sectors have been in effect since November 2018.

How often do I have to pay the fee?

Fees are required to be paid when lodging a new, amendment or renewal application for a 5C licence, a new application for a 26D licence, or a new permit application. No annual fee will be charged.

How often are licences renewed?

Licences to take water are typically issued for periods up to ten years, however some exceptions apply. These licences are not automatically renewed, so licensees will need to make an application to renew their water licence before the expiry date shown on the existing licence.

For further information about licence tenure refer to the department's Section 5C licence tenure policy.

Licences to construct or alter wells and permits for bed and banks are not renewable and are issued for a period long enough to complete the proposed works. This is typically around 12 months, unless specifically requested otherwise.

What happens if I need to amend my licence?

A fee will need to be paid if the amendment to your licence requires the department to undertake an assessment of the impacts on the water resource.

Why a $200 for trades, transfers or agreements?

A conservative fee consistent with the existing application fee for trades, transfers or agreements remains unchanged to continue to support an effective water trading market.

The existing process whereby your Transfer of a licence to a new property owner within 30 days of the land ownership change still applies. If the transfer is not completed within this time frame, you will need to apply for a New licence and be required to pay the applicable fee for a new licence.

Will my application be prioritised over non-fee paying applications?

The prioritisation for licence assessments is based on the order in which the department receives validated applications. The new fees will not change this approach.

In addition, as part of the department’s assessment process, you may still be required to supply additional information to support your application.

Please see the licensing information available on the department’s website for the kinds of information and summary of the assessment process that will be followed.

When will I have to pay the fee?

Fees for mining and water supply sectors are payable early in the assessment process. Assessment will not progress until payment is made.

How long do I have to pay the fee?

All applications require payment of the fee within 30 days of the applicant being notified by the department of the assessment fee amount.

Can I pay in instalments?

No. Fees are charged at time of application and cover the cost of licence assessment.

What happens if I don’t pay the fee on time?

Fees for new applications will need to be paid within 30 days of the applicant being notified. If the fee is not paid within 30 days, the application will be returned and not assessed.

For licence renewals, if the fee is not paid within 30 days of the applicant being notified, the application and previous licence will become invalid.

How can I pay the fee?

Payments can be made via the Make a payment page on the department’s website. You will be advised what biller code and description of payment to use at the same time that you are notified how much you have to pay.

What happens if my application is refused?

The licence fee is for the assessment and is non-refundable regardless of the assessment outcome.

Upon receiving an application, the department will provide advice to the applicant on the fee required and a licensee will be given the opportunity to withdraw their application before assessment is undertaken.

Can I get my fee refunded?

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation will refund fees in the following circumstances:

  • The licensee has paid more than the amount required due to an administrative over-payment.
  • The licensee has paid when not required to pay a fee.
  • When an application is withdrawn before assessment has been undertaken.

What if I use less water than my licence entitlement?

Licence fees are based on the effort to assess a water licence application. The effort will take into account the requested water allocation. Not using the full entitlement under your water licence will not reduce the fee payable for the assessment.

Don’t I own the water on my property?

Water resources are owned by the Crown, and the State Government is responsible for managing the availability and quality of water, now and for the future.

This management ensures sufficient water resources are available to support the State's growth and development while also ensuring long term sustainability of water and the environment.

While some land titles included ownership of land to a certain depth, this does not include groundwater (Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914) nor minerals (Mining Act 1978).

How will revenue be used?

Fees for water licence and permit applications have been developed as part of the State Government commitment to recover costs of services. The Government currently funds delivery of water management across the state. The fees reflect the costs incurred by the State Government in assessing the water licences and permits subject to the fees.

Will water licensing fees apply to other sectors?

Fees are currently being charged to mining and public water supply sectors. There are no plans to introduce further water licensing fees for the remaining sectors or those activities subject to a fee exclusion at this time.