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Groundwater use in the South West

Groundwater use in the South West

Agribusiness is the largest user group across the region. Users are concentrated in the ‘best’ areas – that is the areas with low salinity (what is groundwater salinity) and high yield (what is groundwater yield). Within this region almost 70% of licensed entitlement remain unused. This provides the potential for new or existing users to access water in areas where no new allocations are available through trading unused entitlements. D&S use is not licensed, however you need a licence to construct a bore and you need to test the water quality to make sure it is suitable for your purpose. Find out more about licenses on our Get a licence page.

Who uses groundwater in the region?

Agribusiness users hold the highest volume of entitlements (licences) followed by urban and industrial users. While there is a high number of D&S users (non-licensed), they generally access very small volumes so they account for a small proportion of potential use overall.

Proportion of allocation by user group

  Agribusiness Urban & industrial D&S
Upper 82% 6% 12%
Middle 84% 5% 11%
Lower & basement 1% 98% Less than 1%

This table shows the volume of groundwater allocated to different user groups across the region. This includes the total volume of licensed entitlements as well as an estimate of potential non-licensed use by D&S users.

How much groundwater is actually used and where?

Only a small percentage of licensed entitlement is actually used within this region. Unused entitlements may be traded either temporarily or permanently to other users who are seeking additional water or a new water source.

Actual use by local area

   GMU Licensed volume (ML) 2013/14 Metered use (ML)


Upper Bungaree  5,293.1  3,093.5
  Cardigan  3,878.1  462.3
  Colongulac  4,257.4  1,134.2
  Glenormiston  2,630.2  1,210.3
  Warrion  14,081.0  3,425.6
  Non-GMU  5,989.7  N/A
Middle Condah  7,474.7  2,148.2
  Glenelg  33,261.1  4,904.3
  South West Limestone*  N/A  
  Heywood* 7,010.7 1,358.9
  Hawkesdale* 12,451.0 4,540.3
  Nullawarre* 22,733.0 9,067.2
  Yangery* 14,343.4 2,814.9
  Non-GMU 6,011.4 N/A
Lower Gellibrand  0.0  0.0
  Gerangamete  8,000  0.0
  Jan Juc  11,250.0  3,577.3
  Newlingrook  1,957.5  44.4
  Paaratte  3211.9  322.5
  Portland  7,794.3  2,645.4
  Non GMU  5,739.4  N/A

This table shows the volume of groundwater that can be taken under entitlements (licences) in each area and the amount of groundwater that was actually used during 2013/14.  This is based on metered data collected by SRW. 

* The South West Limestone is a newly defined area.  It covers the South West Limestone Formation which includes the Port Campbell Limestone and other connected limestone formations in the South West of Victoria. This area will cover the current Nullawarre, Yangery, Hawkesdale and Heywood GMUs as well as areas that are currently non GMU.

Domestic and stock use

The total estimated groundwater use from D&S bores is of 12,231ML. D&S use is not licensed or metered so we do not know exactly how much water is used from these bores.  In the South West we estimate that there are 9,409 bores drilled since 1980 which use on average 1.3ML/yr.

What is the potential for accessing groundwater?

Licensed use

There is some potential for new licence allocations in non-GMU areas. In all other areas entitlements are fully allocated and can only be obtained through trading unused entitlements. As can be seen in the section above there is a significant volume of unused entitlements across the region.

Unlicensed use (D&S users)

 You do not need a licence for D&S use, however you must apply for a licence to construct a bore, find out more on our Get a licence page. You also need to make sure that yield is adequate and that water quality is suitable for your purpose, find out more on our what is groundwater salinity page.

Is there potential for any new entitlements in the future?

New aquifer-based planning is under way and limited entitlements may be available in some aquifers or GMUs once this is complete. For example in the large regional aquifers (such as the Dilwyn Formation) there may be potential for new allocations in the future. Any significant increase in activation of unused entitlements may require additional management in specific GMUs (notably Warrion GMU) to ensure sustainable use.

How do I apply for a new licence or to trade?  

A rigorous process applies for all applications for new entitlements and to trade existing entitlements. All applications are assessed on merit and Southern Rural Water must be satisfied that the overall sustainability of the aquifers is protected and that the impact on other users, including the environment, is acceptable.

Find out more or apply for a licence visit our Get a licence page.

Learn the basics

To find out about different groundwater users visit our Who uses groundwater page.

To find out how groundwater and licences are managed visit our How is groundwater managed page.

Page last updated27th May 2015
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