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Water Trading and Rights Explained

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Water trading can seem complex at times and it's our aim at Waterfind to simplify that process as much as we can for our clients.

Perhaps you're a long time water trader who is looking at a new option, or totally new to the concept of water trading. Whatever the case, this page explains some of the basic concepts and terminology. If you still have questions, please don't hesitate to contact one of our experienced team for the answers.

Water Markets & Trade

Queensland Aerial Landscape

Water trade allows for the efficient redistribution of water and is an important mechanism for managing the Murray-Darling Basin’s scarce water resources.

There are two main types of water rights traded in the Basin – entitlements and allocations:

  • Water access entitlements are rights to an ongoing share of the total amount of water available in a system.
  • Water allocations are the actual amount of water available under water access entitlements in a given season.

Rules operate together to govern water trade in the southern-connected Murray-Darling Basin, reduce restrictions on trade, improve transparency and access to information and
improve market confidence through a more effective water market.

There are overarching rules of the Commonwealth Basin Plan 2012, which all Basin States must comply with and rules in state water planning or water sharing instruments such as water allocation plans in South Australia and water sharing plans in New South Wales.

Water Trading Elements

Water Licence

A water licence stipulates how much water can be taken out of a river system, and is often aligned with a property.


Currently, Government appointed Water Authorities allocate the amount of water that can be taken from a river system as a percentage.


Government appointed Water Authorities provide specific trading rules that govern licence in relation to their licences.

Water User Needs

Water users identify specific volumes of water that they require for the irrigation season.

Water Markets

Water markets facilitate the trading of water between two parties. Waterfind provides the most extensive water markets in Australia.

Temporary, Permanent & Forward Water Trade

What is a Temporary Trade?

A temporary transfer is a transfer of water specifically for the irrigation season. Although temporary transfers are solely transfers of allocation between New South Wales and Victoria, Queensland and South Australia both have the means of transferring an entitlement on a temporary basis, whereby the water is transferred for the current irrigation season and the purchaser is the beneficiary of any increase in allocation from the date of the transfer.

What is a Permanent Trade?

Similar to the sale of land, a transfer of permanent water is the transfer of the water entitlement to the purchaser on a permanent basis. The purchaser will retain the parcel and receive any allocation granted upon it from the date of the transfer indefinitely or until the time at which they sell the entitlement.

What is the Forward Market?

The Forward Water Market is a mechanism which enables clients to plan for future irrigation requirements thus removing uncertainty around their requirements. Waterfind's unique and innovative Forward Water Market is an extension of the current spot market, enabling the contracting of temporary or permanent water parcels at a set price to be delivered at a future date, to be determined by the seller and purchaser.

What is Water Trading?

With water being a limited and valuable resource, water trading encourages efficient water use by allowing it to be used where it’s needed most. Water trading is the act of selling your water allocation (temporarily) or entitlement (permanently) to another eligible water licence holder.

How Does Water Trading Work in Australia?

Waterfind makes water trading easy, where you can buy or sell water using our 24/7 online platform. You can also talk to your dedicated water account manager, and they can handle the process for you.

What are my Water Rights?

The Australian Government manages our water resources through issuing ‘rights’ (licenses, allocations, entitlements) to manage and control water use.

Water rights define how much water you are entitled to in a fully allocated year, where your water can be used, and any limitations on your licence.

If you have questions and queries regarding the water rights within your region, contact us today!

When Does the Water Season Start and Finish?

The water season runs from the 1st of July to the 30th of June.

What is the difference between my water entitlement and water allocation?

There are two main types of water rights traded in the Murray-Darling Basin: water entitlements and water allocations.

Water entitlements are the total amount of water you own, allowing you to receive a certain volume of water during a season.

Water allocations are the percentage of a water entitlement that can be taken from the water source in that year. This can vary from year to year.

How Much Water am I Allocated?

The volume of water allocated in a given year can change depending on the amount granted by the appropriate water authority. You can check your current allocation here.