Australian water markets

​​Water markets are a key mechanism by which Australia manages water scarcity while still supporting economic growth. While state and territory governments are responsible for water licensing and trade rules, the Australian Government has a leadership role to coordinate actions to improve the efficient operation of water markets.

Shot on location throughout Australia, the following video provides an overview of Australia’s Water Markets and how they encourage efficient water use.

National register of foreign ownership of water entitlements

Registrations on the Australian Taxation Office’s register of foreign ownership of water entitlements commenced on 1 July 2017. Further details including contacts, scheduled webinars, and guidance material are available from the department’s register of foreign ownership of water entitlements page.

Water charge rules

On 21 September 2016, the ACCC provided its Review of the Water Charge Rules: Final Advice to the then Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. The ACCC’s advice included proposed amendments to the water charge rules. The ACCC consulted extensively when preparing its advice.

Based on this advice, the then Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources made the Water Charge Amendment Rules 2019 to amend the water charge rules and to combine the three sets of rules into the Water Charge Rules 2010. The Amendment Rules are available on the Federal Register of Legislation. The water charge rules are subject to the standard disallowance ​process​.

A future law compilation of the Water Charge Rules 2010 has been prepared to assist stakeholders prior to the actual compilation being published on the Federal Register in 2020.  The future law compilation can be downloaded below.

The ACCC’s new Schedule of Charge requirements for operators are being implemented. Customers, including irrigators, will benefit from increased protections and transparency regarding what charges they are required to pay and why. They will also be able to compare their charges with the charges of other customers within and outside their networks, and to participate in new charge determination and dispute resolution processes with their operators.

Infrastructure operators will benefit from more streamlined regulatory requirements. Currently some operators have to familiarise themselves with three separate sets of rules in order to identify the requirements that apply to them. Under the amended rules, all of the requirements will be in one place, and the requirements themselves are standardised and consolidated.

Regulatory responsibility for Part 6 infrastructure operators is handed back to Basin states under Basin state laws, provided Basin state regulatory approaches ensure that operators’ costs are prudent and efficient, and charges are set at levels that would not allow monopoly returns.

The ACCC’s proposed new non-discrimination and distribution rules are not being implemented. For these aspects of the rules, the existing regulatory frameworks and protections will remain in place.

For more detail about which aspects of the ACCC’s advice have been implemented and which have not, download the Summary of the Water Charge Amendment Rules 2019 below.

Changes to the water charge rules

On 26 May 2020 the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia proposed to make a clarifying amendment to the Water Charge Amendment Rules 2019, through the Water Charge Amendment (Termination Fees) Rules 2020. This minor amendment is to clarify the limit on termination fees under certain circumstances, to impose a quantitative cap on termination fees. The new rule will be 74(6). These further proposed rules, a summary, and a public notice can be downloaded below.


Documents Pages File size
Summary of the proposed Water Charge Amendment Rules 2019 DOCX Word Icon 1 24 KB
ACCC Review of the Water Charge Rules: Final Advice PDF PDF Icon 403 4.5 MB
ACCC Review of the Water Charge Rules: Final Advice DOCX Word Icon 403 1.3 MB
Future law compilation of the Water Charge Rules 2010 PDF PDF Icon 75 729 KB
Future law compilation of the Water Charge Rules 2010 DOCX Word Icon 75 147 KB
Public notice of the proposed Water Charge Amendment (Termination Fees) Rules 2020 DOCX Word Icon 1 37 KB
The Water Charge Amendment (Termination Fees) Rules 2020 PDF PDF Icon 6 401 KB
Summary of the proposed Water Charge Amendment (Termination Fees) Rules 2020 DOCX Word Icon 1 28 KB

If you have difficulty accessing these files, visit web accessibility for assistance.

Australian water markets reports

The Australian water markets report is the most authoritative annual national statistics on water markets, including water entitlement trade and water allocation trade volumes and prices, trade processing times and environmental water holdings and trade. The report summarises water trading activity within surface and groundwater systems across Australia, with a particular focus on the Murray-Darling Basin region. The report series is currently being prepared by ABARES, who took over from the former National Water Commission.

History of Australian water markets

The development of Australia's water markets represents a centrepiece of national water reform. Water markets and trading have played a significant role in allocating scarce water resources.

Water purchasing in Murray-Darling Basin

Restoring the Balance in the Murray–Darling Basin

This programme aims to purchase water entitlements from irrigators, which can then be used to improve the health of the Basin's rivers, wetlands and floodplains. This is part of a long-term strategy to provide a permanent rebalancing between consumptive water use and the environment.

We regularly report on the programme:

Market prices for Murray–Darling Basin water entitlements

We publish monthly water price market reports (previously quarterly), compiled by independent consultants, to help irrigators and interested parties identify the prices being paid for Murray–Darling Basin water entitlements.

Basin markets and rules for interstate water trading

Water market trade in the Murray-Darling Basin is regulated under the Basin Plan water trading rules, which came into effect on 1 July 2014.

The rules provide greater clarity and consistency for the operations of the water market in the Murray–Darling Basin and aim to ensure free trade in surface water, except where there are defined allowable restrictions. The rules also require information to be readily available about the characteristics of different allocations and entitlements, trading prices and the trading rules used by the states and irrigation infrastructure operators, among other requirements.

Rules for interstate water trade

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority provides information and guidelines on the Basin Plan water trading rules, including rules for interstate water trading.

Supply side drivers of water allocation

The Australian Government has commissioned a report on supply-side drivers of water allocation prices in the southern Murray-Darling Basin.

The report seeks to develop greater understanding among market participants of the range of factors affecting allocation prices, including climatic conditions, water allocation decisions and Commonwealth water purchases.

Last reviewed: 9 June 2021
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