Water service licensing and licence exemptions

To ensure its quality and quantity, the delivery of water services in Western Australia is tightly regulated under the Water Services Act 2012.

Under the Water Services Act 2012 (the Act), the Economic Regulation Authority issues licences for the delivery of water services including supply, irrigation, sewerage and drainage.

Under certain circumstances the Minister for Water may grant an exemption from licensing.

Water services

In Western Australia, a water service includes:

  • water supply – supply of potable or non-potable water
  • sewerage – collection, treatment and disposal
  • irrigation – provision of water for agriculture or pasture
  • drainage – management of stormwater, groundwater, surface water or soil salinity, which may include managing the quality of water.

A water supply service supplies water, whether potable or not, by means of reticulated conduits and other appropriate water supply works.

You require a water service licence, or an exemption under the Act, to provide a water service (water supply, sewerage, irrigation or drainage) in Western Australia.

Licensed water services

A water licensing system is generally required to:

  • promote an effective and sustainable water services industry
  • prevent water service providers from abusing their monopoly power
  • ensure customers are provided with good quality services.

The scheme sets out minimum service and technical standards for providers and requires asset management practices to be monitored. It also ensures that industry participants have the financial and technical capacity that is required to provide water services.

How to apply for a water services licence

Under the Act, in Western Australia you need a licence or an exemption to provide a water service, whether it is water supply, sewerage, irrigation or drainage.

You can apply for a licence through the office of the Economic Regulation Authority. The authority is responsible for monitoring the performance of service providers, licensing and licence applications.

Exemptions

The Minister for Water may grant licence exemptions if the exemption is not contrary to the public interest. They may be granted where the cost of meeting licence requirements is greater than the benefit provided to the public by licensing, such as when the number of customers is limited, and the price and quality of service are set in a contract.

Reasons for the Minister's decisions are provided to the applicant and can be requested by any other person.

An exemption may also be granted subject to specified conditions being met, such as providing regular reports on asset maintenance or establishment of a works management system.

Exemptions may be revoked by the Minister if it is in the public interest to do so.

How to apply for a water services exemption

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Applications can be emailed to water.industry.policy@dwer.wa.gov.au or posted to:

Senior Manager Water and Environmental Policy, Strategic Policy
Department of Water and Environmental Regulation
Locked Bag 10
JOONDALUP DC WA 6919

In assessing an application for exemption, a range of public interest criteria is considered.

Applicants should provide information on the following matters to help with the public interest assessment:

  • Environmental considerations, including the value of ecological sustainable development
    • Information on the source of water supply, treatment method and infrastructure details
    • Relevant licences and approvals obtained by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation
    • Relevant reporting requirements
  • Public health considerations in relation to the provision of reliable water services
    • Relevant approvals obtained from the Department of Health
    • Reporting mechanisms in place
  • Social welfare and equity considerations, including operating subsidies, details on charging for water
    • Whether the scheme is a not-for-profit service
    • Whether any government funding is provided in servicing the scheme
  • Economic and regional development, including employment and investment growth
    • Benefits to the community as a result of the water service
  • Interests of water services customers generally or a class of water services customers
    • Details on customers and supply arrangements
    • Evidence of any agreements with customers
  • Interests of any other licensee, or applicant for a licence, to which the exemption order, if made, would apply
    • Are there any other water service providers in the area?
    • What is the number of customers and volume of water supplied per year?
    • Are there any plans to increase the number of customers and volume of water supplied?
    • Are there any other relevant matters?

Activities not requiring a licence

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Some activities do not require a licence under the Act. A licence is not required in relation to:

  • self-supply, where a person provides water to themselves within the boundaries of a single lot to a single dwelling (e.g. rainwater tanks, single-lot recycled water systems, private bores, farms)
  • watering of public open spaces by local councils from council bores
  • transporting water or sewerage by cart, truck or tanker
  • intermediaries through whom the service is provided by a third party, such as a shopping centre where water is delivered to individual tenants
  • mine dewatering, excluding any subsequent on-supply of the mine dewater to other parties
  • geothermal water supply services, where water is supplied for heating or cooling and is then returned to the point of supply.

Individual exemptions

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Exemptions are published in the Western Australian Government Gazette.

Current licence exemptions dating from 1995, with links to the Government Gazette publication on the Western Australian Legislation website, are listed below.

Page reviewed 21 September 2022