Water rights in Western Australia are governed by the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 (‘the Act’). Under the Act, you may need a water licence for taking or interfering with surface water, overland flow water or groundwater.

There are some exemptions to the licencing process and these include:

  • if your property adjoins a river or watercourse and you intend to take surface water for domestic purposes. Water from springs rising to the surface of your land and wetlands that are wholly on your land can also be taken, provided the resource is not ‘sensibly diminished’, (or detrimentally affecting the water rights of downstream users);
  • if you collect water runoff without intercepting the watertable. However, you must comply with any other Commonwealth, state or local laws that relate to the construction or water retention;
  • if you take water from watercourses provided the flow is not ‘sensibly diminished’. This right does not extend to installing structures or inferring with the watercourse;
  • if you take underground water from a non-artesian original source. A non-artesian source is a source of water that does not originate from an artesian well, being a well where water in the aquifer (a subsurface rock unit that holds and transmits water) is under enough pressure to force it up the well to a level that is higher than the top of the aquifer.

In Western Australia, there are five stages for transferring a water licence.  These are:

Stage 1 – Apply to amend a licence or permit;

Stage 2 – Validation of the application;

Stage 3 – Assessment of the application;

Stage 4 – Recommendation; and

Stage 5 – Decision.

Each water licence has an expiry date.  It is the licensee’s responsibility to make sure it has complied with the Department of Water requirements for renewal before the expiry date of the existing licence.

A Licence to Take Water allows the licensee to take a specified amount of water in accordance with the terms of its licence.  Such a licence is a legal document and you must ensure you comply with its terms and conditions.  The licence does not transfer ownership of the water to you from the Crown, it grants you access to the water for your use for the duration of the licence.  Any transfer of a licence is subject to the Department of Water’s approval.

The Department of Water recommends that you:

  • keep your licence in a secure place where it can be regularly checked to ensure you are complying with the terms and conditions of your licence
  • apply to renew your licence prior to the licence expiry date
  • apply to amend your licence if you want to change the volume (entitlement), activity or location of the water source on your licence.

Should you have any queries relating to the water transfer process WA Property Lawyers are willing to assist and guide you through the process.