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Australian water markets

Water markets are a key mechanism by which Australia manages water scarcity while still supporting economic growth. While state and territory governments are responsible for water licensing and trade rules, the Australian Government has a leadership role to coordinate actions to improve the efficient operation of water markets.

Shot on location throughout Australia, the following video provides an overview of Australia’s Water Markets and how they encourage efficient water use.

National register of foreign ownership of water entitlements

Registrations on the Australian Taxation Office’s register of foreign ownership of water entitlements commenced on 1 July 2017. Further details including contacts, scheduled webinars, and guidance material are available from the department’s register of foreign ownership of water entitlements page.

ACCC review of the water charge rules

The Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources proposes to update the water charge rules following the ‘ACCC’s Review of the Water Charge Rules: Final Advice’. The water charge rules apply to non-urban water supply activities of infrastructure operators and irrigation infrastructure operators in the Murray-Darling Basin.

In accordance with statutory requirements, a public notice of the Minister's intention to update the rules, a copy of the proposed Water Charge Amendment Rules 2019, a draft compilation version incorporating the amendments into the Water Charge Rules 2010, a summary of the proposed rules, and a copy of the advice provided by the ACCC are provided below.


DocumentsPagesFile size
Public Notice DOCX Word Icon129 KB
Proposed Water Charge Amendment Rules 2019 PDF PDF Icon52700 KB
Draft compilation version incorporating the amendments  into the Water Charge Rules 2010 PDF PDF Icon75714 KB
Summary of the proposed Water Charge Amendment Rules 2019 DOCX Word Icon123 KB
ACCC Review of the Water Charge Rules: Final Advice PDF PDF Icon4034.5 MB
ACCC Review of the Water Charge Rules: Final Advice DOCX Word Icon4031.3 MB

If you have difficulty accessing these files, visit web accessibility for assistance.

The Minister proposes to make the Water Charge Amendment Rules 2019 after the expiry of the four week statutory notice period, on or after 18 March 2019. The amendments will then be incorporated in the Water Charge Rules 2010 and will commence on 1 July 2019.

As set out in the summary of the proposed Water Charge Amendment Rules 2019, the ACCC’s proposed new non-discrimination and distribution rules are not being implemented. For these aspects of the rules, the existing regulatory frameworks and protections will remain in place.

The ACCC’s new Schedule of Charge requirements for operators are being implemented. Customers, including irrigators, will benefit from increased protections and transparency regarding what charges they are required to pay and why. They will also be able to compare their charges with the charges of other customers within and outside their networks, and to participate in new charge determination and dispute resolution processes with their operators.

Infrastructure operators will benefit from more streamlined regulatory requirements. Currently some operators have to familiarise themselves with three separate sets of rules in order to identify the requirements that apply to them. Under the new rules, all of the requirements will be in one place, and the requirements themselves are standardised and consolidated.

For more detail about which aspects of the ACCC advice are being implemented and which are not, download the Summary of the proposed Water Charge Amendment Rules 2019 above.

Australian water markets reports

The Australian water markets report is the most authoritative annual national statistics on water markets, including water entitlement trade and water allocation trade volumes and prices, trade processing times and environmental water holdings and trade. The report summarises water trading activity within surface and groundwater systems across Australia, with a particular focus on the Murray-Darling Basin region. The report series is currently being prepared by ABARES, who took over from the former National Water Commission.

History of Australian water markets

The development of Australia's water markets represents a centrepiece of national water reform. Water markets and trading have played a significant role in allocating scarce water resources.

Water purchasing in Murray-Darling Basin

Restoring the Balance in the Murray–Darling Basin

This programme aims to purchase water entitlements from irrigators, which can then be used to improve the health of the Basin's rivers, wetlands and floodplains. This is part of a long-term strategy to provide a permanent rebalancing between consumptive water use and the environment.

We regularly report on the programme:

Market prices for Murray–Darling Basin water entitlements

We publish monthly water price market reports (previously quarterly), compiled by independent consultants, to help irrigators and interested parties identify the prices being paid for Murray–Darling Basin water entitlements.

Basin markets and rules for interstate water trading

Water market trade in the Murray-Darling Basin is regulated under the Basin Plan water trading rules, which came into effect on 1 July 2014.

The rules provide greater clarity and consistency for the operations of the water market in the Murray–Darling Basin and aim to ensure free trade in surface water, except where there are defined allowable restrictions. The rules also require information to be readily available about the characteristics of different allocations and entitlements, trading prices and the trading rules used by the states and irrigation infrastructure operators, among other requirements.

Rules for interstate water trade

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority provides information and guidelines on the Basin Plan water trading rules, including rules for interstate water trading.

Supply side drivers of water allocation

The Australian Government has commissioned a report on supply-side drivers of water allocation prices in the southern Murray-Darling Basin.

The report seeks to develop greater understanding among market participants of the range of factors affecting allocation prices, including climatic conditions, water allocation decisions and Commonwealth water purchases.