Darwin Rural Water Licensing

In July 2016, the Northern Territory Government removed an exemption for bores pumping less than 15L per second from licensing requirements under the Water Act 1992.

This meant people using water through bores, other than for stock and domestic use in the Darwin Rural Water Control District were required to obtain a water extraction licence.

The exemption was known as the ‘15 litre per second exemption’ and was in place since the commencement of the Water Act in 1992. It was included as an exemption to the licensing requirement to assist with horticultural and agricultural development in the Darwin rural area.

Non-stock and domestic water use in the Darwin rural area is now subject to the same licensing requirements as users in all other water control districts the Northern Territory.

Why was the exemption removed?

The original intention of the exemption was to foster the development of agriculture and horticulture in the Darwin rural area.

Since the exemption was introduced in 1992, and in particular in the last 10 years there has been increased competition for, and use of, groundwater resources in the region for residential development, industry development and horticultural and agricultural use.

The exemption has allowed for large volumes of water to be used without any corresponding monitoring and reporting to Water Resources Division.

By lifting the exemption, those using water other than for stock and domestic use will be subject to licence conditions, including the requirement to monitor and report on use, contributing to better overall management.

Does the exemption exist in any other water control districts?

No.  The 15L per second exemption was unique to the Darwin Rural Water Control District and areas outside of water control districts.

What is a water extraction licence?

A water extraction licence is an entitlement to take water. Water licences are not attached to land, although they do transfer with changes of land ownership. A licence does identify the property on which the water can be used.

Water licences are granted for bores or river pump sites.

Do I need to apply for a water licence?

You will require a water licence if you are taking water (groundwater or surface water) for purposes other than stock and domestic use, road construction and/or maintenance.

How do I get a water extraction licence?

Contact water.licensing@nt.gov.au

The Water Resources Division is also available to assist you with your application.

Is there an application fee?

There are no fees to apply for a water extraction licence in the Northern Territory.  Applicants are required to meet advertising costs and to install and maintain an approved water meter.

Will I be charged for water?

No, water licensing is a tool used by Water Resources Division to manage the groundwater or surface water resource to ensure they maintain their integrity, are not degraded and remain sustainable into the future.  It’s about not running out of water.

How long is a water extraction licence issued for?

A water licence is typically granted for a 10 year period.

When I get a water extraction licence what am I required to do?

You will need to comply with all the licence conditions specified, including to:

  • install and maintain a water meter at your cost
  • report monthly water use licensed to Water Resources Division
  • use no more than your maximum water entitlement and
  • seek approval if you are using inline chemigation and or fertigation systems.

What happens if I take water without a licence?

It is prohibited to take and use water unless authorised or licensed under the Water Act 1992.  If you take water without a licence when it is required you will be liable for prosecution.

How can I find out more information?

Application forms, guides and supporting information are available from our website or you can contact Water Resources Division by phone, email or visit our front counter located on the 4th floor of the Goyder Centre, Palmerston.

For further information or apply for a water extraction licence:

  • Phone: 08 8999 4455
  • Email: water.licensing@nt.gov.au
  • Visit: 4th Floor, Goyder Centre, 25 Chung Wah Terrace, Palmerston

Last updated: 10 January 2020

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