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Licensing and trade

Before you use, take, or trade water, or start work on waterfront land in NSW, you must obtain all necessary licences and approvals.

Licensing and approvals

Before you take, use, trade water, or start work on waterfront land in NSW; you must obtain all necessary licences and approvals.

Our goal is to provide sustainable management of water and to protect, enhance and restore rivers and water sources through the creation of policy, considered assessment and issuing of licences and approvals.

Find out how to apply, our policies on water licences, and how you can follow the laws regarding water below.

Important information

The Licensing and Approvals team are currently experiencing extended delays in the issuing of licences, approvals and enquiry responses.

We apologise for the inconvenience these delays are having on our customers.

We understand that providing greater certainty on assessment timeframes and processes will help our customers to better adjust and plan for these delays. Find more information on adjusted assessment timeframes.

Controlled activity approvals are required for developments carried out on waterfront land. You may also need approval from your local council.

You will need a water access licence or a water supply work and/or water use approval to take water from a river, lake, or aquifer to use on your land in NSW.

Flood work approvals let you build and use structures that affect water flow in rivers, estuaries, lakes, or the distribution of floodwater in times of flood.

Major projects may need to apply for water licences or approvals under certain circumstances to ensure the proposed development is sustainable.

Find the right application forms and fees for your water-related licences and approvals. Easily lodge, amend, extend, or surrender your licences or approvals.

The department and WaterNSW share responsibility for granting and managing water licences and approvals in NSW. NRAR is responsible for compliance.

Basic landholder rights

Landholders can take water under basic landholder rights without a water licence or approval in certain circumstances under the Water Management Act 2000.

More about basic landholder rights

Keeping a logbook about water take

Water users are required to record and report their water take. The department has developed logbook templates to assist licence holders to comply.

More about logbooks


Water licences are a valuable asset. You can trade water access licences, licence shares and water allocations. Manage your trades on the trade dashboard, or learn more about trading water in the trade section. The Department formulates policies relating to trade of water licences, and conducts public consultations and research to facilitate water market reform.

More about trading water licences

Water News

Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter to stay informed and have your say about water planning, management and reform across NSW or read the previous editions.

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Not sure about what you need?

We've developed the Water Assist tool to help you work out who to talk to and what steps to take to get the licences and approvals you need.

Reducing red tape for water licences and approvals

The NSW government has pledged $14.8 million in the 2022-23 budget to streamline and simplify the water licensing and approvals process. Find out what changes are coming, how they affect you, and when.

Visit Reducing red tape for water licences and approvals