Fair access to water

Everyone in Victoria has the right to access a share of water for personal or business use. Water from a dam, bore, stream, river, creek or irrigation channel can be accessed by a water share or licence. Water shares and licences set limits on how much water users can take and use. This ensures that one user’s take and use of water does not reduce the supply of water to other users or adversely impact Victoria’s environmental values.

In some areas, users can take a certain amount of water for domestic and stock purposes without a licence. It is against the law to take more than your share of water.

Water shares and licences

Water shares or licences are issued by the relevant local water corporation as authorised under the Water Act 1989. These shares and licences have conditions on how much water you can take and use.

Read more about Victoria’s Water Entitlement Framework and the Water Act 1989.

Most water users are responsible and abide by these conditions. Each year, however, a small number of users break the law. They may take water without a water share or licence, they may build an illegal bore or dam, or they may interfere with a water meter on a public waterway. Sometimes, these offences are deliberate. Sometimes, they happen because people do not know the law.

If you wish to take water from sources such as a dam, bore, stream, river, creek or irrigation channel, you should contact your water corporation to understand your rights and obligations. There are 6 water corporations that provide non-urban water supplies to customers:

  • Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water*;
  • Goulburn-Murray Water;
  • Southern Rural Water;
  • Lower Murray Water*;
  • Melbourne Water; and
  • Coliban Water*.

*only applies to rural customers

Find your local water corporation.

Information about water shares and licences is also available from the Victorian Water Register.

How Victoria manages water compliance

Water theft is a crime. Water corporations have several enforcement options against those who break the law. These include education, warning notices, orders for reinstatement where appropriate, cancellation of a licence or prosecution.

Victoria has a number of safeguards that protect against large-scale water theft, including:

  • Extensive metering and measurement systems
  • Modernised irrigation systems
  • Comprehensive specification of entitlements
  • Modernised hydrologic monitoring
  • Sophisticated water register that promotes transparency
  • Comprehensive water accounting rules and practices

Read more about how Victoria manages and enforces water compliance.

Page last updated: 16/09/19