Water management

Water management in Australia is a complex process. It includes:

  • water pricing and economic regulation
  • water planning and management
  • water markets
  • water supply and services
  • water quality management.

There are different approaches in each State and Territory. This section is provided for general information purposes only. For details on water management arrangements, please refer to relevant jurisdiction links. Water governance information is also available on the National Water Commission website .

There are five levels of water management in Australia:

  1. national
  2. cross-border
  3. State/Territory
  4. regional
  5. local.

National and cross-border management

The national/cross-border arrangements table on the national rules page outlines many of the key pieces of legislation which govern national and cross-border water management in Australia.

The table below contains some additional cross-border river basin water management arrangements.

Cross-border river basin water management arrangements
Cross-border arrangement Type of arrangement Summary
Murray–Darling Basin Agreement  Intergovernmental agreement (embodied in legislation) Governs water sharing and institutional arrangements for the Murray-Darling Basin.
Murray–Darling Basin Plan  Plan

The Basin Plan is a strategic plan for the integrated and sustainable management of water resources in the Murray-Darling Basin.

The central legal requirement of the Basin Plan is to set environmentally sustainable limits on the amount of water that can be taken in future from the basin’s water resources. Such a limit is known as a 'sustainable diversion limit'.

Lake Eyre Basin Agreement  Intergovernmental Agreement A joint undertaking of the Australian, Queensland, South Australian and Northern Territory governments to ensure sustainability of the Lake Eyre Basin river systems.*
Snowy Water Inquiry Outcomes Implementation Deed  Legislation The Snowy Water Inquiry Outcomes Implementation Deed establishes a legally binding agreement between the New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian governments on the outcomes of the Snowy Water Inquiry and their implementation.
Great Artesian Basin  Strategic Management Plan (2000–2015) Plan Strategic Management Plan 2000-2015 endorsed by all jurisdictions in the Great Artesian Basin (Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Northern Territory)**
Victoria–South Australia Groundwater (Border Agreement) 1985  Legislation Designed to protect the groundwater resources on the Victoria–South Australia border.**
New South Wales–Queensland border rivers  Intergovernmental Agreement Interim intergovernmental agreement between New South Wales and Queensland’s river catchments. Reflects Council of Australian Governments water reforms, Murray-Darling Basin Authority and national water arrangements.

* Water trading not available in this area
** Limited water trading available in this area

State/Territory management

Water management in the States and Territories is the responsibility of various government agencies, water authorities and water utilities. Information about water management in each of the States and Territories is available by clicking on the tabs above.

Regional and local management

A range of organisations including Catchment Management Authorities, rural water utilities and local water utilities have responsibility for regional and local water management. Rural water utilities primary purpose is the delivery of water for irrigation. They also have a range of important regulatory, administrative and governance functions. See the Useful links page for links to rural water utilities in your area.