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Find information on the water licensing and work approval processes.

The department issues water access licences and water supply work and water use approvals to government agencies and entities, larger water users such as water utilities and irrigation corporations, entities undertaking activities under the Mining Act 1992 or in relation to state significant projects and certain Aboriginal entities. WaterNSW issues licences to rural landholders and businesses.

What is a water access licence?

The state government controls the use and flow of all water in rivers, lakes and aquifers.

In water sharing plan areas, water access licences permit the licence holder to take a specified volume of water from a specified water source, under the terms of the licence.

The department and WaterNSW share responsibility for granting and managing water access licences and water supply work approvals.

WaterNSW is responsible for issuing water access licences (WALs) and associated approvals required by private entities such as rural landholders, rural industries and developments. These make up approximately 96 per cent of all water access licences in NSW.

WaterNSW is also responsible for managing the trade of water access licence entitlements and water allocations (dealings), for water access licence account keeping and water billing for all water access licence holders.

The department issues licences to a small cohort of larger water users such as state significant developments, mining operations, irrigation corporations and government entities. While these water users only account for about 4 per cent of WALs, they use more than 60 per cent of all allocated water in NSW.

The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) is responsible for ensuring all water access licence holders comply with NSW legislation and the conditions of their licences and approvals, to enable secure and sustainable sharing of water between users and the environment.

Learn more about water access licences, including whether to apply through the department or WaterNSW, via Water Assist.

Reducing red tape for water licences and approvals

Water licensing improvement program to transform water licensing and approvals for water users in NSW.

River Red Gums Eucalyptus camaldulensis on the banks of Murray River, Albury.

How to apply for a water access licence

Information on all water licences, including how to apply, and the fees for each.

Groundwater WAL exemptions for 3ML and Botany Sands

Two new WAL exemptions are now available under the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018.

Toonumbar Dam.

Drought works

Relevant public authorities can apply to the department for an exemption under clause 39A of the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018.

Drought works exemptions

Licence embargoes

Find out about restrictions on applying for a Water Act 1912 licence.

Security interests and legal searches

How to use water licences as security for a mortgage, and how to find out what approvals may apply to land you are thinking of buying or