Water allocation policies

The following policies apply generally to water allocations in the NT.

For individual water allocation plans, go to water allocation plans (WAPs).

View the water licensing policies.


The Northern Territory Water Allocation Planning Framework applies to water resources within and outside water allocation plan areas.

The Framework sets out how water is to be allocated between consumptive and non-consumptive beneficial uses and is based on the principle that water should be allocated to non-consumptive Beneficial Uses (e.g. environmental and cultural values) as a matter of priority, and once this allocation is set, remaining water can be allocated to consumptive beneficial uses (e.g. agriculture).

The Framework establishes contingent allocations for non-consumptive and consumptive uses where scientific research on environmental and/or non-consumptive cultural water requirements is not available, while allowing for alternative allocations to be set where there is scientific research that can be used as a basis for the alternative allocation. The WAPF is sometimes referred to as the ‘80:20’ Rule.

For more information on the Northern Territory WAP Framework PDF (430.1 KB).

This page has information about Aboriginal water reserves in water allocation plans in the Northern Territory (NT).

In 2017, the Northern Territory Government released a policy framework for strategic Aboriginal water reserves.

Aboriginal water reserves exist in water allocation plans as a sub-class of some beneficial use categories.

They are determined by the proportion of eligible Aboriginal land with direct physical access to water.

Aboriginal water reserves are a reserved volume of water for use, use in partnership or trade.

Read the Strategic Aboriginal water reserves policy framework PDF (419.8 KB).

The framework sets out how the reserves can be applied to current and new water allocation plans.

For more information, email waterresources@nt.gov.au or call 08 8999 4455.

Last updated: 07 August 2020

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