Water allocation planning

What is a water allocation plan?

A water allocation plan (WAP) is a legal document that sets out the rules for managing the take and use of prescribed water resources. It ensures these resources are allocated fairly and secures sustainable water supplies for the community, industry and the environment for future generations.

A WAP is developed in consultation with the community, industry and key stakeholders for each water resource identified as being significant, or ‘prescribed’, under the Landscape South Australia Act 2019. There are a number of prescribed water resources in the region and WAPs for these prescribed resources have either been developed or are under development. It sets the amount of water that will be available, how that water may be allocated to users, and the types of activities that are permitted with that water. Once a WAP is in place, water users can apply for a licence, transfer water between users as well as a range of other activities subject to the rules and limits of the WAP.

Why WAPs are important

Water is a precious resource. There is a limit to how much is available for use on an ongoing basis, and so it is important to provide certainty to current and future users of water, particularly to those whose livelihoods depend on it. A WAP provides that certainty. WAPs give consideration to the environment, social and economical needs, and seek to ensure long-term sustainability and security.

The process

1. Prescription of a water resource

Important water resources in South Australia are protected and managed by being ‘prescribed’ under the Act. Prescription means that the water resource must be sustainably managed to provide security for all water users, now and into the future.

2. Development of a WAP

For each prescribed water resource, a WAP must be developed by the relevant landscape board. A WAP must meet the needs of the environment and the community. To ensure this, scientific investigations of the water resource and extensive community consultation are included in the development of a WAP.

The proposed content of the WAP is developed with advice from community-based committees in the region. A draft WAP is then prepared, and extensive community consultation is undertaken. Community feedback is used to inform a final WAP that is submitted to the Minister for Environment and Water for consideration. Adopted WAPs are reviewed within 10 years to ensure they are still meeting the needs of the environment and the community.

3. Implementing a WAP: water allocation through licences and permits

Once the WAP is adopted by the Minister it is implemented by the Department for Environment and Water. The department manages the allocation of the water resource to existing and new users in accordance with the rules set out in the WAP. Water users apply for a licence, which sets out their allocation and the conditions under which they can take and use water.

McLaren Vale Salinity Hot Spot project

Landscape Hills and Fleurieu has commenced the McLaren Vale Salinity Hot Spot project. The project will work with people in the McLaren Vale region who hold ground water licences in the zones that are at risk due to high salinity. The purpose of the project is to work with licence holders to understand the issues and identify methods to manage the stabilisation of the salinity into the future.

Project participants will be asked to complete a short survey and attend a public forum to make decisions about the future management of salinity in the hot spot regions.

The findings from the survey and hydrogeological information from the Department of Environment and Water will be shared at the public forum which will be held in late January 2023. It will be an opportunity to work through ideas and approaches to manage the hot spot regions so that the groundwater quality can be sustained for future generations and the ecosystems that depend on them.

Farmers talk about water allocation planning

Water allocation planning is not new and many plans are already in place to protect water resources across South Australia. See a number of farmers talk about their experiences.