National rules

The table below summarises the sources of national and cross-border water trading rules in Australia. For further information click the links below or seek advice from your local water authorities.

National rules
Name Applies Description
Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Water Initiative  Nationally

The NWI represents a shared commitment by governments to increase the efficiency of Australia's water use, leading to greater certainty for investment and productivity, for rural and urban communities, and for the environment. Under the NWI, governments have made commitments to:

  • prepare water plans with provision for the environment
  • deal with over-allocated or stressed water systems
  • introduce registers of water rights and standards for water accounting
  • expand the trade in water
  • improve pricing for water storage and delivery
  • meet and manage urban water demands.
Murray-Darling Basin Plan  Murray-Darling Basin

The Basin Plan provides a high level framework that sets standards for the Australian Government, Basin States and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (Authority) to manage the Murray-Darling Basin's water resources in a coordinated and sustainable way in collaboration with the community.

The purpose of the Basin Plan is to provide for the integrated management of the Basin water resources in a way that promotes the objects of the Water Act 2007 (Cth) (Act), in particular by providing for:

  • giving effect to relevant international agreements, including the Biodiversity Convention and the Ramsar Convention, to the extent they relate to the use and management of Basin water resources;
  • establishment and enforcement of environmentally sustainable limits on the quantities of surface water and groundwater that may be taken from Basin water resources;
  • Basin-wide environmental objectives for water-dependent ecosystems, and water quality and salinity objectives;
  • use and management of Basin water resources in a way that optimises social, economic and environmental outcomes;
  • water to meet its most productive use through the development of an efficient water trading regime across the Murray-Darling Basin;
  • requirements that must be met by water resource plans; and
  • improved water security for all uses of Basin water resources.

The management outcome for the Basin Plan as a whole is a healthy and working Murray-Darling Basin that includes:

  • communities with sufficient and reliable water supplies that are fit for a range of intended purposes, including domestic, recreational and cultural use; productive and resilient water-dependent industries, and communities with confidence in their long-term future; and
  • healthy and resilient ecosystems with rivers and creeks regularly connected to their floodplains and, ultimately, the ocean (section 5.02).
Murray-Darling Basin Agreement (Schedule D – Permissible Transfers between Trading Zones) Protocol 2010  Murray-Darling Basin The Murray-Darling Basin Agreement (Schedule D – Permissible Transfers between Trading Zones) Protocol 2010 provides the legislative basis for interstate and inter-valley trading in the Murray-Darling Basin. Schedule D establishes:
  • restrictions on transfers between specific trading zones in the southern Murray-Darling Basin
  • rules around transfers across the Barmah Choke
  • rules around transfers into and out of the Lower Darling Valley.

The Murray-Darling Basin Agreement forms Schedule 1 of the Water Act 2007.

Murray-Darling Basin Agreement Schedule F Murray-Darling Basin Schedule F of the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement establishes long-term diversion caps from rivers within the Murray-Darling Basin.
New South Wales – Queensland Border Rivers Intergovernmental Agreement 2008  NSW - Qld border rivers Schedule E of the New South Wales - Queensland Border Rivers Intergovernmental Agreement 2008 establishes the interstate trading rules for the border rivers area.
Water Act 2007  Murray-Darling Basin (however some parts of the Act apply nationally) The Water Act 2007 implemented key reforms for water management in the Murray-Darling Basin. The key features of the Act are:
  • establishing the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA)
  • requiring the MDBA to prepare the Basin Plan
  • establishing a Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to manage the Commonwealth's environmental water
  • providing the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) with a key role in developing and enforcing water charge and water market rules
  • giving the Bureau of Meteorology water information functions that are in addition to its existing functions under the Meteorology Act 1955.
Water Amendment Act 2008  Murray-Darling Basin (however some parts of the Act apply nationally) The key features of the Water Amendment Act 2008 are:
  • transferring the functions of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority
  • strengthening the role of the ACCC by providing for the water charge rules and the water market rules
  • extending the powers of the ACCC to determine all regulated non-urban water charges
  • enabling the Basin Plan to provide arrangements for meeting critical human water needs.
Water Regulations 2008   Murray-Darling Basin (however some parts of the Regulations apply nationally) The Water Regulations 2008 address:
  • the process the Minister must follow for making water market and water charge rules
  • matters relating to the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement
  • amendments to the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement
  • the definition of the boundary of the Murray-Darling Basin
  • Murray-Darling Basin Authority special powers
  • water information.
Water Amendment Regulations 2010  Murray-Darling Basin (however some parts of the Regulations apply nationally) The Water Amendment Regulations 2010 were developed to enhance the coverage of the water charge rules in the Murray-Darling Basin. The purpose of the water charge rules is to promote efficient water pricing and sustainable use of water resources and water infrastructure across the Basin. The regulations will ensure a more consistent approach to regulating water charges across the Basin for the benefit of water users and providers.

Water market rules and water charge rules 

See also the ACCC's Water market rules and water charge rules page, which contains guides and explanatory statements regarding the rules.

Murray-Darling Basin

The Water Act 2007 provides for water market, charge and trading rules to be made to regulate the water market and water charges across the Murray-Darling Basin. The rules aim to free up trade, encourage the efficient use of water and water service infrastructure, and improve pricing transparency and consistency across the Basin.

The Water Market Rules 2009 regulate a process known as 'transformation'. In areas where an irrigation infrastructure operator (IIO) holds a bulk water entitlement, the water market rules prohibit actions of an IIO that prevent or unreasonably delay irrigators from transforming all or part of their irrigation rights into separate statutory water access entitlements, allowing them to be traded outside the irrigation district.

The Water Charge (Termination Fees) Rules 2009 cap the termination fee that may be imposed by IIOs when an irrigator chooses to terminate their access to the IIO's irrigation network.

The Water Charge (Infrastructure) Rules 2009 deal with fees and charges for:

  • access, changing access, or terminating access to an IIO's irrigation network, including for surrendering a water delivery right
  • bulk water charges
  • charges for water planning and management activities
  • certain other charges prescribed by regulation.

The Water Charge (Planning and Management Information) Rules 2010 govern a variety of water planning and management activities. Specific activities covered by these rules which relate to water trading include:

  • administration activities for entitlements and permits
  • development of entitlement frameworks
  • administration of water trading arrangements
  • business administration
  • administration of water metering arrangements.