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Water – Surface and Groundwater Allocation

In-House Memorandum


Ministerial Discretion in Surface and Groundwater Allocation

Groundwater is an invaluable environmental resource being both an integral part of Victorian agriculture and increasingly a source for domestic use. Obviously, surface water is critical to all life in Victoria. In deciding on an application for private water allocation, the Minister must exercise discretion in a series of matters, including environmental and water impacts[1]. The particular requirements are:

  • Availability of water – existing and projected in the area;
  • Volume – permissible consumptive volume, if any, for the area;
  • Quality of water – existing and projected quality in the area;
  • Impact – any adverse effect that the allocation or use of water under the entitlement is likely to have on existing authorised uses of water[2], a waterway or an aquifer, a s12(1) drainage regime or the maintenance of the environmental water reserve in accordance with the environmental water reserve objective;
  • Entitlement – any water to which the applicant is already entitled;
    • In many cases, extraction of groundwater may impact surface water flows in the vicinity as well as local groundwater dependent ecosystems, leading to species loss.
  • Conservation Policy – the government’s conservation policy;
  • Allocation Policy – the government’s policies concerning the preferred allocation or use of water resources;
  • Heritage Rivers – whether the proposed source of water is within a heritage river area or natural catchment area (e.g., Log Bridge Creek Catchment Area, Devils Creek Catchment Area, Avon River Catchment Area, etc.)[3] and whether there is any restriction on the use of the area under that Act;
    • The Heritage Rivers Act 1992 (Vic) is established to provide for the protection of public land in particular parts of rivers and river catchment areas in Victoria which have significant nature conservation, recreation, scenic or cultural heritage attributes[4].
  • Management and purposes – if appropriate, the proper management of the waterway and its surrounds or the aquifer and the purposes for which the water is to be used; and
  • Other applicants’ needs – the needs of other potential applicants.

Any application to take and use water, whether on bulk or under specific licence, must be considered in the light of the Ministerial requirements listed above[5]. These matters are designed to ensure secure water allocation and are critical in providing reliable sources of water, of an accepted quality, across the wide variety of needs and users in Victoria.

Cameron Algie

5 May 2014


[1] These are set out in s40(1)(b)-(m), Water Act 1989 (Vic)
[2] This includes a waterway or aquifer, drainage regimes within the meaning of section 12(1), and also the maintenance of the environmental water reserves in accordance with the environmental water reserve objective.
[3] Schedule 2, Heritage Rivers Act 1992 (Vic)
[4] Section 1, Heritage Rivers Act 1992 (Vic).
[5] Environmental entitlements are considered separately from take and use allocations; see Part 4, Division 1A, Water Act.