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The Water Act 1989 (Vic) plays a central part in providing a legal framework that protects rights to water and entitlements for all Victorians.

Many groups and individuals have interests in water, so dividing up these rights and allocating them properly helps everyone have fair and equitable access to water.

What’s the difference between rights and entitlements?

When we talk about water entitlements and rights, it’s useful to think of them as a bundle of rights. It’s a metaphor for the parts that make up full ownership.

  • A right can be described as the freedom to act without interference.
  • An entitlement is a privilege that’s given to a person or entity.

We can then further divide up these rights to water using water shares and licences.

Licencing under The Water Act

Generally, the relevant water corporation issues water to individual users via a water share or a licence.

Under the Water Act 1989, certain requirements for licences and certain entitlements to water are stipulated for a range of sources.

The Minister for Water issues entitlements under the Water Act 1989. These include:

Rights to water are defined in the Water Act 1989 as:

  • Section 7 provides that the Crown has the right to the use, flow and control of all water in a waterway and all groundwater.
  • Section 8 provides for an individual's rights to water.
  • Section 9 sets out rights of water corporations to water.

Victoria's water entitlement framework

The framework defines how we share, hold, use and trade water to support agricultural, urban and environmental water needs. It provides certainty and flexibility for water managers and water users. It's a planning toolset that allows us to meet competing demands. We can also meet future water needs by ensuring these planning processes are in place.

The framework establishes:

  • water entitlements
  • annual processes to allocate water to entitlements
  • ability to trade.

The framework establishes entitlements in the context of limits so that water taken under one entitlement does not reduce supply reliability to others or adversely impact environmental values. It also provides the entitlements with integrity by outlining clear consultative processes to make any changes to water entitlements.

Water entitlements and the Water Act

Water entitlements consider surface water and groundwater resources for both consumptive and environmental purposes at all phases of the water cycle.

The Minister for Water issues the following entitlements under the Water Act 1989:

  • bulk entitlements
  • environmental entitlements
  • water shares
  • water licences.

The Water Act 1989 governs entitlements to water under the following sections:

  • Part 4 regarding bulk entitlements and environmental entitlements
  • Part 3A regarding water shares
  • Section 51 regarding water licences.

Domestic and stock rights

In addition, the Water Act 1989 allows individuals to take water for domestic and stock purposes from a range of surface water and groundwater sources without a licence. These rights are defined under section 8(1) and section 8(4)(c) of the Water Act 1989 and are not formally issued.

They include farm dams for domestic and stock purposes.

Water markets and trading

Water markets have existed in Victoria since 1991. Trading rules in Victoria’s water markets have evolved as the markets have developed.

For information on water market prices and volumes of water traded visit the Victorian Water Register.

Page last updated: 02/11/23