Temporary access to strategic water infrastructure reserves

Following amendments to the Water Act 2000, we now allow temporary access to unallocated water held as strategic water infrastructure reserves under a temporary water licence for up to 3 years.

This means that water that has been committed to water infrastructure projects can be accessed for short-term ventures. This temporary access to strategic water infrastructure reserves is part of our ongoing commitment to flexible water management mechanisms.

Access to strategic water infrastructure reserves

We will assess water demands to identify opportunities to release strategic water infrastructure reserves.

Water releases must be consistent with relevant water plans and a decision to release the water would consider:

  • the likelihood of the reserve being required for its intended purpose in the short term
  • existing water markets
  • existing water users.

If the chief executive decides to make strategic water infrastructure reserves available for temporary access, the water must be released under the unallocated water release process prescribed in the Water Regulation 2016.

Eligibility for temporary water licences

To be eligible for temporary access to water under a strategic water release process, a proponent must be an 'owner' of land as defined in the Water Act 2000 or a 'prescribed entity' under schedule 4 of the Water Regulation 2016.


The Water Regulation 2016 provides safeguards for the intended use of the water. Licences under this process can be granted for a maximum of 3 years and cannot be relocated, renewed, reinstated, amalgamated or subdivided.

The chief executive may cancel a temporary licence if the infrastructure proponent requires the water.

The volume of water set aside in a strategic water infrastructure reserve for a plan area is determined as part of the hydrologic modelling that underpins plan development. This means the volume in the reserve will not adversely impact the water allocation security objectives, or the environmental flow objectives, of the plan.

Licence expiry

After a temporary licence expires, the water returns to the strategic water infrastructure reserve for the intended purpose.