Authorisations in water areas

You may need a water authorisation before you can take or interfere with water. An authorisation may be a water allocation, water licence or water permit.

Requirements are summarised below and additional details can be found in the Water Regulation 2016 or water plan that applies to your area. These plans have been developed for most of Queensland's catchment areas and set out the rules for accessing surface water, overland flow and underground water.

Make sure you have the required authorisation and follow its conditions before you take or interfere with water. Water use is monitored, and it's an offence under the Water Act 2000 to take or interfere with water without the appropriate authorisation.

Check with your local business centre to confirm requirements.

Activities that don't require an authorisation

Some activities don't require an authorisation, including taking water used for:

  • emergencies, firefighting or routine testing of firefighting equipment
  • camping
  • watering travelling stock.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can take water for their traditional activities or cultural purposes without an authorisation.

You might not need an authorisation for some activities to help you prepare or recover from a flood, cyclone or other emergency.

For any other activity, check with your local business centre to confirm requirements.

Authorisations for taking water

Before you take water from a watercourse or aquifer, you may need 1 of the following authorisations. In addition, you may also require a development approval for associated works, such as pumps and bores.

Water allocations

Water allocations authorise the holder to take a certain volume of water from a particular source, such as a watercourse or aquifer. Allocations have a separate title, similar to a land title, and they can be bought and sold on the water trading market. Trades can be either permanent or temporary (seasonal). Water trading is available in water plan areas where water allocations have been established.

Check your water plan area for availability and trading rules.

Water licences

Water licences are issued for long-term activities for taking water, and are usually attached to land. In some parts of Queensland, water licences to take water can be relocated permanently or seasonally. Water licences can be granted for different purposes, including stock and domestic purposes and irrigation. Irrigation licences can either specify the area of land that can be irrigated, or a volume of water that can be taken.

Water permits

Permits are issued for temporary activities with a foreseeable end date. Permits cannot be relocated, traded, amended, renewed or suspended. Permits specify the location of take, an expiration date and the conditions attached to the permit.

Authorisations for interfering with water

You may need a water licence to interfere with the flow of a watercourse, lake or spring, for example to impound water. In addition, you might need a development approval for associated works (e.g. dams and weirs). Check with your local business centre to confirm requirements.

Other activities in a watercourse, lake or spring

You will generally need a riverine protection permit before you excavate, place fill or destroy native vegetation in any watercourse, lake or spring, unless you meet the exemption requirements.

If you are extracting quarry materials, you will need a quarry material allocation.

Also consider…