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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.

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.

Water allocation planning

Adelaide Plains Water Allocation Plan

The Minister for Environment and Water, the Honourable David Speirs MP, has approved the Adelaide Plains Water Allocation Plan (the Plan) following community consultation. The Plan will become operational on 1 July 2022.

The Plan sets out the rules for the licensing, allocation and management of groundwater and wells within the prescribed area. This includes rules for managing water that is drained or discharged into aquifers, also known as managed aquifer recharge.

After the Plan becomes operational, all water licences will be re-issued in a different format. This is scheduled to occur in late October 2022. At that time water licence holders will receive further information explaining the new licence format. The changes will not affect water licence entitlements.

Until the new Plan becomes operational on 1 July 2022, the existing Northern Adelaide Plains Water Allocation Plan still applies for transfers and variations of water licences in the Northern Adelaide Plains Prescribed Wells Area.

When the Plan becomes operational on 1 July 2022, it will be the first water allocation plan for the Dry Creek and Central Adelaide Prescribed Wells Areas. The Plan will apply for the next 10 years, unless it is reviewed and amended sooner.

The Plan can be viewed here as well as the following:

  • explanatory information sheets
  • Consultation Report that provides an overview of the consultation undertaken, the key matters raised and the amendments made to Plan based on the feedback
  • collation of the verbal and written feedback received during the consultation and the responses to the feedback

Implementation of the Plan is a joint responsibility between the Department for Environment and Water, Green Adelaide and the Northern and Yorke, and Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Boards.

If you have any enquiries regarding your water licence please contact a Water Licensing Officer on (08) 8463 6876 or via email at

If you would like further information or have any questions regarding the Adelaide Plains Water Allocation Plan please contact the Team Leader Water Allocation Planning on (08) 8463 3733 or via email at