About the Australian water markets report

​​​​​​The Australian water markets report presents comprehensive annual statistics on water trading activity across Australia. The report provides detailed descriptions of water supply and demand conditions, water trade volumes and market prices for 2015–16 across all significant Australian surface water and groundwater markets. The report also provides an annual time series of data, documenting the evolution of Australian water markets since 2007–08.

The Australian water markets report 2015–16 is the ninth annual statement of water trading activity across Australia. The report was first produced by the National Water Commission for the 2007–08 water year and has been produced each year since. In 2015, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences was given responsibility for producing the 2013–14 to 2016–17 editions of the report.

The primary objective of the Australian water markets report series is to inform market participants, regulators, policy makers, researchers and other interested parties about Australia’s water market activity by documenting traded products, trading activity, prices and any relevant changes in governance arrangements.

The report is not intended to be a contemporary guide to inform market participants about their day-to-day water trading decisions. Rather, it highlights trends and market activity during the year. Water trading activity occurs at a number of locations across Australia, as summarised in Map 1. The Australian market is best viewed as a collection of separate markets limited to specific surface water or groundwater systems. The vast majority of water trading activity in Australia occurs within the southern Murray–Darling Basin (MDB)—along the Murray River and its major connected tributaries.

Map 1 : Australian water systems with water allocation trade activity in 2015–16


Map 1 shows Australian water sytems with water allocation trade activity in 2015-16.

This year, the Australian water markets report will be published as individual web pages corresponding to chapters of the final written report. These are:

  • National Overview: a national overview of Australian water markets.
  • Southern MDB​: a detailed examination of the southern MDB (sMDB) as the most significant water market in Australia.
  • Northern MDB: information for water systems in the northern MDB, including individual profiles for significant systems such as Gwydir, Namoi, Macquarie and Lachlan in New South Wales, and Border Rivers (spanning both NSW and Queensland).
  • Rest of Australia: information for water systems outside the MDB with significant trading activity. These include Tasmania, Gascoyne and Harvey in Western Australia, Burnett, Burdekin and Fitzroy in Queensland, Thomson–Macalister and Werribee in Victoria, Hunter in NSW, and SA South East in South Australia.

These chapters will be made available progressively. The National overview​Southern MDBNorthern MDB, Rest of Australia​ and Data and Methods​ sections are now available on the department website.

In each chapter, trade statistics are presented separately for water entitlement markets and water allocation markets. Water entitlement markets involve the exchange of water rights that provide perpetual or ongoing access to shares of water from a specified source (such as a river, reservoir or aquifer)—that is, ‘permanent’ transfers of water. Water allocation markets involve the exchange of specific volumes of water available for use in the current year (those that have been assigned to entitlements)—that is, ‘temporary’ transfers of water. The majority of trade activity in Australia—at least in terms of the number of transactions—occurs within allocation markets.

Where the total volume of entitlement transfers or water allocation trades are presented for a particular jurisdiction, zone or water source, these are calculated as the total volume of trades within the jurisdiction, zone or water source plus the volume of outbound trades. Inbound trades are not included to prevent double counting.

This report also presents detailed information on the participation of environmental water holders (such as the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder) in water markets, particularly within the MDB. Following the introduction of the Water Act 2007 and associated Murray–Darling Basin Plan reforms, government environmental agencies have become increasingly important participants in water markets.

Data for the report have been collated from various sources, including:

  • Bureau of Meteorology—the primary source of information on water trading; it collects water trade data from jurisdictional agencies and irrigation infrastructure operators under the Water Act 2007 and the Water Regulations 2008
  • Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources—information on Australian Government environmental water recovery
  • Commonwealth Environmental Water Office—information on the holdings and trade activity of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder
  • Murray–Darling Basin Authority—additional information on water trading and environmental water in the MDB
  • Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)—information from the ABARES survey of irrigation farms in the MDB
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics—information on farm water use and irrigation production.

The methods used by ABARES in combining and cleaning these various datasets will be described in detail in Data Sources and Methods. For now, this information can be found in the Appendices of the 2014–15 report. For readability, this report presents statistics in the form of charts and maps. All data presented in charts and maps are available to download in spreadsheet form. Finally, the Water Trade Database​ underlying many of the results is currently available to download. Unless otherwise stated, chart and map data on these pages have been sourced from this database.

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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