Find Lawyers in Brisbane, Australia for Water Law

Practice Area Overview

Water law describes the complex patchwork of regulation and laws which govern the use and management of water resources in Australia. 

In Australia, water law is state-based and primarily found in legislation and regulations. Having said that, each state and territory government has signed up to the National Water Initiative with a view to establishing a consistent regime across Australia which deals with water access entitlements and the management of surface and groundwater resources. 

In South Australia, for example, the main pieces of legislation which provide for rights to use and access water, and the management and environmental protection of water resources, are the Water Industry Act 2012 (SA) and the Natural Resources Management Act 2004 (SA).

These statutes, and their equivalents in other states, abolish the vast majority of common law riparian rights held by landowners to naturally occurring water such that rights to water are now primarily statutory entitlements. 

Water law, through these and other related statutes, regulates the right to use and take water for agricultural, industrial, and commercial purposes, the trading of water entitlements, the licensing of entities to supply water to retail customers, catchment and distribution of water, third party access to government water and sewerage infrastructure, pricing, water quality and pollution, and standards around the collection, treatment, and disposal of sewerage.  They also promote the management of natural water resources, and establish boards that are responsible for implementing regional natural resource management plans. 

A contravention of the legislation can result in substantial penalties being imposed. 

Lawyers practising in water law typically advise local governments and/or corporate clients such as utilities and private developers on a diverse range of issues, including:

  • regulatory compliance and licensing;
  • water supply agreements;
  • asset and infrastructure construction, acquisition, and disposal;
  • infrastructure access arrangements;
  • land access agreements and easements which may be required to operate relevant infrastructure (such as pump stations or pipelines) from third party land;
  • the transfer of water entitlements; and
  • access to water entitlements and water storage from third parties (such as local councils)

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