Changes to water laws - Mineral, Water and Other Legislation Act 2018
Recent changes to the Water Act 2000 deliver a range of improvements to Queensland’s water legislation.
These water amendments came into effect through the Mineral, Water and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2018.
Water planning enhancements
The changes to the Water Act provide a range of improvements to the water planning framework.
Climate change has the potential to significantly alter the frequency, magnitude and duration of streamflows as well as substantially impact groundwater levels through changes in aquifer recharge rates.
Changes to the Act will ensure that the water-related effects of climate change are considered as an integral part of the water planning process.
This will help us to better understand and manage risks to water security and water-dependent environmental values. For example, a water plan may manage identified risks by including strategies to meet critical water needs.
It is important to note that performance objectives in a water plan, including for water users, will still be based on historical rainfall and run-off information rather than predictions.
Water plans will now explicitly recognise the importance of water resources to Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including their strong spiritual connection to water.
Cultural outcomes will be stated separately instead of being embedded in other outcomes, and water plans will need to include strategies for their achievement, monitoring and reporting.
Cultural outcomes will be included when a new water plan is prepared or an existing water plan is replaced.
Environmental management rules
We can establish a referral panel to advise us on a number of water matters. Environmental management rules have been added to the list of water matters that a referral panel can consider and provide advice about.
Management of overland flow water
Overland flow is water that runs across the land after rainfall, either before it enters a watercourse, after it leaves a watercourse as floodwater, or after it rises to the surface naturally from underground.
Overland flow water that is contaminated with chemicals used in agriculture needs to be captured to prevent harm to streams and rivers. However, capturing more than what is needed to prevent harm can impact on other water uses. A water plan can now include rules to help landholders ensure the volume of overland flow water taken does not exceed what is necessary.
Water availability and markets
Access to water reserves
Temporary access to strategic water infrastructure reserves
Under the Water Act, water plans can reserve water to be used for future infrastructure projects or dams.
Changes to the Act now allow strategic infrastructure reserves to be released temporarily to support short-term economic development opportunities in areas identified through the Rural Water Management Program.
Water released in this way would only be available for a maximum period of 3 years. Release decisions will be based on an assessment of water demands and opportunities.
To find out if you are eligible to access this water, email email@example.com.
Unallocated water release process for general reserves
The unallocated water release process described in the Water Regulation 2016 for general reserves now prevails over a water plan process.
This will provide greater flexibility in how we release water, e.g. through a public auction, tender, fixed price or direct grant to release unallocated water.
Seasonal water assignments
Holders of resource operations licences and distribution operations licences may now be required to collect and publish price information about sales of supplemented seasonal water assignments.
Such information would complement existing price information for permanent water trades.
Holders will need to agree to the resource and distribution operations licences being amended to include this requirement.
Seasonal water assignment rules
The definition of seasonal water assignment (sometimes called ‘temporary trade’) of a water allocation has changed. A water allocation can be assigned for either a water year or other period prescribed in a water management protocol. This can provide opportunities for multiple season water assignments within a water year, for example, based on flow events, where the water planning framework allows.
Urgent water quality directions
Changes to the Act establish new powers to deal with urgent water quality issues as a result of extreme weather events, such as floods or cyclones. The changes will allow us to direct an entity, including holders of resource or distribution operations licences, to take action to prevent or remedy water quality issues.
Administrative and operational improvements
The Water Act amendments improve flexibility for a range of operational and water planning matters and clarify processes for water licence dealings.
Water licence dealings and water permits
The Act has been changed to ensure that a water licence dealing application that has not been decided lapses on the day an owner disposes of the part of land to which the water licence attaches. This is for consistency with other provisions in the legislation.
Changes to the Act also allow us to request further information from water permit applicants if required to make our decision.
Draft water entitlement notices
Where a draft water entitlement notice (WEN) proposes to convert a water licence held by a lessee of land to a water allocation, the changes to the Act now require the owner of the land to be given a copy of the WEN.
This ensures the owner of land is aware of the proposed conversion and can make appropriate arrangements with the water licence holder.
To provide more flexibility to landholders to maintain and repair water bores, the law now allows an individual other than a licenced driller to repair the casing of a subartesian bore to a depth of 1.2 metres.
Compensation payments for reduced water allocation values
Changes to the Act clarify that compensation for a reduction in the value of a water allocation is payable for the life of a water plan (including if a plan is extended) and not limited to a 10-year timeframe. This aligns compensation provisions with previous changes to the Act that allow for the expiry of a water plan to be postponed (continuing the water plan in force for up to 20 years).
- Find out more about the management and use of water in Queensland.
- Read about other changes made through the Mineral, Water and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2018.
Last updated 28 November 2018