Water Access Licences

Water Access Licences

Water Access Licences (WALs) entitle licence holders:

  • to specified shares in the available water within a particular water management area or water source (the share component)
  • to take water at specified times, rates or circumstances from specified areas or locations (the extraction component).

Water sharing plans establish rules for sharing water between the environmental needs of the river or aquifer and water users, and between different types of water use such as domestic supply, stock watering, industry and irrigation.

In order to take water for a particular purpose, you may need to obtain a WAL nominating a water supply work. For more information, go to Approvals.

Applying for a WAL

For information on the application process, please see Applying for a new WAL.

The Water Management Act 2000 recognises that a WAL is a valuable asset. WALs under the Water Management Act 2000:

  • provide a clearly defined entitlement listed on a public WAL Register that is separate from land ownership
  • separate the entitlement to access water from the approvals associated with water supply works and the use of water.

'Continuing' WALs provide:

  • a clearly defined right to a share of the available water in a particular water source
  • increased opportunities to trade water through the separation of land and water rights.

WAL categories help define the priorities between different WALs, the conditions that apply to them and, in the case of specific purpose category WALs, define how water may be used. They include:

  • regulated river (high security)
  • regulated river (general security)
  • regulated river (conveyance)
  • unregulated river
  • aquifer (groundwater)
  • estuarine water
  • coastal water
  • supplementary water
  • major utility
  • local water utility
  • domestic and stock.

Subcategories of any category of WAL may be prescribed by the regulations.

Applications may be made for the following specific purpose WALs (subject to any restrictions contained in a relevant management plan) as follows:

Category of access licence: Domestic and stock
Subcategory: Domestic
Purpose: Domestic consumption

Category of access licence: Unregulated river
Subcategory: Town water supply
Purpose: Supply to communities for domestic consumption and commercial activities

Category of access licence: Regulated river (high security)
Subcategory: Town water supply
Purpose: Supply to communities for domestic consumption and commercial activities

Category of access licence: Aquifer
Subcategory: Town water supply
Purpose: Supply to communities for domestic consumption and commercial activities

Note: Applications made by Department of Industry - Water customers (i.e. major utilities, water supply authorities, government agencies) for WAL categories - Aboriginal cultural, local water utility, licences under the Mining Act and floodplain harvesting, will need to apply to the Department of Industry - Water.

Security interests (such as mortgages) cannot be registered over specific purpose licences.

The reference to ‘tenure’ on a WAL certificate indicates the duration of the WAL. A WAL ceases to be in force on the cancellation date as recorded on the WAL Register.

  • A ‘continuing’ WAL is granted in perpetuity, which means it does not need to be renewed. It is typically used for a commercial purpose such as irrigation or industrial use. ‘Continuing’ water WALs include supplementary WALs issued for regulated rivers.
  • A ‘specific purpose’ WAL (e.g. for town water or domestic and stock purposes) must be cancelled when the purpose for which the WAL was issued ceases.

Irrespective of the type of tenure, a WAL can be suspended or cancelled if there is a breach of the WAL conditions or other non-compliance.

The WAL Register has a separate record for each WAL issued (called a WAL folio). The online register is administered by NSW Land Registry Services (NSW LRS).

NSW LRS issues a duplicate of the WAL folio called the WAL certificate to the licence holder, or any other party entitled to hold the WAL certificate (e.g. a mortgagee). In the case of a former joint water supply authority, where there are a number of separate holders and registered interests, certificates will only be issued where all parties agree on who should hold it.

WAL certificates are valuable legal documents which should be stored carefully. Usually, a new WAL certificate, or edition of the certificate, is generated each time a new dealing is registered.

For more detailed information, go to the Registrar General's Directions website.

Changes to information on the WAL Register about the WAL holder (through a transfer of a WAL) and security interests (such as mortgages or caveats over the WAL and any term transfer arrangements) are managed directly by NSW LRS. The lodgement forms can be obtained from the NSW LRS website.

Changes as a result of other water dealings (e.g. subdivisions, change of location or WAL category) must be approved by WaterNSW before they can be registered on the WAL Register. For application forms and guides, see Applications and fees.

The WAL Register and WAL certificates include the names of the WAL holder/s, type of tenancy if more than one holder, category of WAL, encumbrances, any water dealings (except water allocation) and the WAL details such as the share component, extraction component and nominated works.

For more information on these components of WALs, see Guide to the components of water access licence certificates (PDF, 605.14 KB).


No longer need your Water Access Licence (WAL)?

If you no longer need to take or use water, you can voluntarily surrender your water access licence.

How do I surrender my WAL?

  • Complete a “notice to surrender water access licence” form and ensure it is signed by all holders.
  • Ensure any security interests (mortgage charges or caveats) have been discharged or withdrawn.
  • Ensure all outstanding water charges have been paid.

For more information, contact our friendly customer services team on 1300 662 077

NSW Water Register

The online NSW Water Register maintained by WaterNSW provides some information on WALs and other consents and activities under the Water Management Act 2000, including:

  • WAL conditions
  • available water determinations
  • water trading statistics including water allocation assignments (formerly known as temporary trades) and assignment of shares (formerly known as permanent trades)
  • summaries by water source of number of WALs, available water determinations and water usage.

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