Water licensing fees FAQs
Frequently asked questions
Why do we need licence fees?
Contemporary water management recognises the principle of user-pays with water licensing fees paid by licensees. This is applied in all other Australian states. Water licensees in Western Australia derive benefit from the regulatory service, and the cost of the service has to be covered either by the tax-payer or through user-payments.
Western Australia is experiencing a drying climate, requiring us to become more focused about how we use our water. With ground and surface water resources being affected by reduced rainfall, we are implementing new approaches to licensing to streamline assessment times and make information about water resources more available to ensure greater security for those with businesses reliant on water.
Part of this approach is the management of water allocation to make sure water resources are not over-allocated.
The government recognises that many private irrigators and other water users have funded their own infrastructure. It is important to ensure that this investment is safeguarded through the provision of more secure entitlement. Licensing, monitoring and compliance activities are important to delivering greater security to water users, and it is appropriate that as beneficiaries they meet this cost.
The fees proposed are to recover the costs associated with assessing water license and permit applications. It is not a volumetric charge for a water entitlement.
Three tiers have been selected that best represent the effort in delivering the licensing service.
Who has to pay?
The fees coming in at 1 July 2018 (subject to gazettal of legislation) apply to the mining and public water scheme supply sectors.
Why the mining and public water scheme supply sectors?
The mining and water supply sectors are important users of water that recognise the need to meet the costs involved in managing the water licensing system from which they derive a benefit. These sectors use the most amount of water which requires greater effort in assessing licence applications.
When will fees come in?
From 1 July 2018 (subject to gazettal of legislation), any applications submitted for assessment (either through the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation’s Water Online system or by lodging a hard copy application form to the department) by mining and water supply sectors will attract a fee. This includes new applications as well as renewals of existing licences.
How often are licences renewed?
Licences to take water must be renewed before the expiry date shown on the licence. The maximum period is 10 years.
Licences to construct or alter wells are issued for a period long enough to complete the proposed work, and cannot be renewed. This is typically around 12 months.
What will I be charged for my water licence?
Assessment fees will be charged proportional to risk, with assessments that require more regulatory effort attracting a higher charge.
The table below details the fee structure. Fees are based on the effort required to assess an application and increase with the environmental impact and scientific complexity of the assessment.
Risk assessment level
Old fee ($)
New fee ($)
New 5C licence (take water)
Renew existing 5C licence
Trades, transfers or agreements
Amend 5C licence
Construct and alter well licence
Permit for bed and banks
Notes: Department of Water and Environmental Regulation initiated amendments will have no assessment or application fee.
In addition to the new fee schedule above, the current Rights in Water and Irrigation Regulations 2000 pertaining to fees continue to apply to all business sectors. These fees are summarised below.
Part 1 — Fees relating to licences and permits
Application for approval of transfer of a licence, water entitlement or agreement referred to in clause 30 of Schedule 1 to the Act (cl. 32(1)(c) of that Schedule)
(included in the list above)
Fee for certified duplicate of a licence
Maximum amount for meter test (reg. 44(4))
Part 2 — Registration of instruments in the register and access to the register
Application for notation of security interest
Removal of notation of security interest
Variation of notation of security interest
Access to register
Copy of an entry in, or an extract from, the register (s. 26GZI(4))
$25 for the first page, $1 for each additional page
How is the risk determined?
The level of risk is commensurate with the allocation status of the water resource and the volume of water applied for. The higher the volume of water and the more the water resource is allocated, the higher the risk.
Allocation status of water resource
Volume of application
Water resource is <30% allocated
Water resource is between 30% and 70% allocated
Water resource is between 70% and 100% allocated
Water resource is >100% allocated
0 - 50,000 kL per annum
50 000 - 500 000 kL pa
>500 000 kL pa
The matrix is also applied to applications with no water entitlement (e.g. construct and alter wells, bed and banks permits) where only the resource category at the lowest water volume will be used.
Some aquifers in remote areas require further investigation to determine a new allocation limit. The department will advise the applicant as to the level of risk based on information provided in the application.
Why a $200 for trades, transfers or agreements?
A conservative fee consistent with the existing application fee for trades, transfers or agreements will remain unchanged to continue to support an effective water trading market.
How do I know if I need a licence to construct a bore?
A licence to construct a well is not required if:
- the development is within the water table (non-artesian) aquifer
- the well is required for monitoring water level or water quality.
A licence is not required for dewatering purposes if:
- the development is within the water table (non-artesian) aquifer
- water is taken from the well solely for the purpose of removing underground water to facilitate construction or other activity (that is, dewatering)
- the water is taken at a pump rate not exceeding 10 litres per second over a period of less than 30 consecutive days
- the volume of water taken over the period does not exceed 25 000 kilolitres.
Will my application be prioritised over non-fee paying applications?
The prioritisation for licence assessments is based on the order in which the department received validated applications. The new fees will not change this approach.
What happens if my application is refused?
The licence fee is for the assessment and is non-refundable regardless of the assessment outcome.
Upon receiving an application, the department will provide advice to the applicant on the assessment required and a licensee will be given the opportunity to withdraw their application before assessment is undertaken.
Will fees go to other water use sectors?
At this time fees are only being charged to mining and public water scheme supply sectors. The department will consult early in 2018-2019 on possible fees to other water use sectors.
How will revenue be used?
Additional revenue raised between 2018/19 and 2021/22 will be used for implementing the department’s licensing requirements and strengthening compliance activities.
What happens if I need to change my licence?
If you amend your water licence, you will need to pay a fee. The fee covers the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation’s costs of assessing the amendment application.
When will I have to pay the fee?
Fees for mining and water scheme supply sectors will be payable early in the assessment process. Assessment will not progress until payment is made.
Can I get my fee refunded?
The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation will refund fees in the following circumstances:
- The licensee has paid more than the amount required due to an administrative over-payment.
- The licensee has paid when not required to pay a fee.
- When an application is withdrawn before assessment has been undertaken.
What if I use less water than my licence entitlement?
Licence fees are based on the effort to assess a water licence application. The effort will take into account the requested water allocation. Not using the full entitlement under your water licence won’t reduce the fee payable for the assessment.
Don’t I own the water on my property?
Water resources are owned by the Crown, and the government is responsible for sustainably managing the availability and quality of water to support the state's growth and development and the environment. While some land titles included ownership of land to a certain depth, this does not include groundwater (Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914) nor minerals (Mining Act 1978).
Who decides how much to pay?
You will be advised by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation as to the fee payable shortly after your application is received.
Fees are outlined in the fee structure and are based on the allocation status of the water resource and the volume of water applied for. It is more complex and time consuming to assess a water licences with a large entitlement in high risk water resources than a smaller one and the fee bands reflect this.
What about Riparian rights?
Licences are not required when taking water for riparian rights, which allow farmers to take water for non-commercial stock and domestic needs associated with a dwelling. This means that water can be taken from the watercourse for domestic purposes only. A permit to interfere with bed and banks is still required.
How long do I have to pay the fee?
New applications require payment of the fee within 30 days of the applicant being notified by the department of the assessment fee amount.
Water licence renewals require payment of the fee within 60 days of the licensee being notified by the department of the assessment fee amount.
What happens if I don’t pay the fee on time?
Fees for new applications will need to be paid within 30 days of the applicant being notified. If the fee is not paid within 30 days, the application will be returned and not assessed.
For licence renewals, if the fee is not paid within 60 days of the applicant being notified, the application and previous licence will become invalid.
How often do I have to pay the fee?
The mining and public water scheme supply sectors will be required to pay a fee for each application made from 1 July in accordance with the fee schedule.