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How is groundwater managed?

How is groundwater managed?

Groundwater is managed within a licensing framework that records user information, measures and records groundwater levels, meters use and applies rules such as caps on allocation, restrictions in dry seasons and transfers.

How are bores managed?

A licence is required to drill a bore. This is to ensure that construction is undertaken by a licensed driller and complies with Australian drilling standards. Records of bores that include the owner, driller, location, depth of bore, geology and any water quality sample results are stored on a database – the Water Measurement Information System.

How is groundwater use regulated?

With the exception of water used for D&S purposes, all groundwater use is licensed. Licences have fixed annual volumes and compliance is ensured through metering usage and field inspections.

How are aquifers managed?

Aquifers are managed differently according to their identified risks and how they react to use and climate. These risks include things such as the impact of falling groundwater levels on bores or Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDEs) or the potential for saline intrusion. Where there is a high level of identified risk or where there is a high number of users Groundwater Management Units (GMUs) exist to ensure that the aquifer is managed sustainably by defining areas with caps on allocation and rules that relate to transfers and pumping restrictions. Local Management Plans explain how these caps, rules and restrictions apply – this information is included in Groundwater Catchment Statements.

Who is responsible?

Under the Water Act the Minister delegates authority to Southern Rural Water to administer the regulations around licensing that protect groundwater resources.  This includes:

  • Issuing works licences (bore construction)
  • Issuing new ‘take and use’ licences
  • Temporary transfer of a licence (trading)
  • Permanent transfer of a licence (trading) 
  • Amendment to a licence
  • Surrender of a licence
  • Amalgamation of licences
  • Approval to dispose of matter underground
  • Setting allocation caps
  • Setting trading rules and other restrictions on the ‘take and use’ of groundwater

The Department of Environment Land Water & Planning (DELWP) oversees resource management and state policy. RWCs report information on licence volumes and use within groundwater catchments and basins to DELWP. There are several other agencies with important roles in groundwater management.

For a useful infographic about who manages groundwater visit our Who manages groundwater page

Page last updated27th May 2015
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