Access to groundwater

Groundwater or underground water is the water beneath the earth's surface that occurs in pore spaces and fractures of rock formations called aquifers. Groundwater is regulated and you may need authorisation before you can access it.

Regulation of groundwater

Queensland legislation separates the authority to take or interfere with water, which is dealt with under the Water Act 2000, from the authority to construct works such as water bores or wells, which is dealt with under the Planning Act 2016.

It is important to note that a licence or permit to take groundwater does not authorise the construction of works such as water bores or wells. Find out more about development assessment for water-related operational works.

The take of groundwater for stock and domestic purposes is allowed without a permit unless regulated through the Water Regulation 2016, a water plan or a moratorium notice.

Groundwater areas

A number of management areas have been established throughout Queensland to protect underground water resources. These include groundwater management areas and subartesian management areas.

Within these areas, you will generally need a water licence to take groundwater. You may also need an authorisation to construct a water bore or other works.

The rules are explained on the relevant water plan page and the details can be found in the water plan that applies to your area.

Some activities don't require an authorisation, including some to help you prepare or recover from a flood, cyclone or other emergency. Check with your local business centre to confirm requirements.

Water bore construction

All water bores or test holes greater than 6 metres in depth must be constructed by, or under the supervision of, a suitably licensed water bore driller and comply with relevant bore construction standards.

You may also need a development approval before the bore can be constructed.

Mining, petroleum and gas activities

Special rules apply to the take of groundwater by holders of resource authorities. Find out more about water authorisations for resource authority holders.

Who to contact

Contact your local business centre for information about access to groundwater. They can advise on requirements for a water licence or development approval.