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Basic landholder rights

Landholder rights to take water from a river, lake, aquifer or rainfall runoff without a water licence or approval in certain circumstances.

Dam at Sunset Landscape - Taken near Gresford, NSW.

Landholders can take water under basic landholder rights without a water licence or approval in certain circumstances.

There are three types of basic landholder rights in NSW under the Water Management Act 2000:

Landholders (owners or occupiers of land) who have land that:

  • has a river, lake, or estuary frontage, or
  • is overlaying an aquifer

can take and use water for domestic consumption and stock watering without a water access licence or water use approval.

If you take water under your domestic and stock right using a bore, you need a water supply work approval to authorise the bore’s construction—apply here to WaterNSW. You may also need a water supply work approval if you intend to build a dam.

Domestic consumption means the use of water for normal household purposes in domestic premises, such as for washing clothes or watering gardens around the house.

Stock watering means the watering of stock animals being raised on the land. It does not include raising stock animals on an intensive commercial basis where the animals are housed or kept in feedlots or buildings.

This is outlined in Section 52 of the Water Management Act, 2000.

Landholders (owners or occupiers of land) can capture and store a proportion of the rainfall runoff from their landholding in one or more harvestable rights dams, without requiring a water access licence, water supply work approval, or water use approval.

Restrictions on the size and location of the dams apply. Some restrictions also apply to the purpose for which water taken in these dams can be used. The water captured in a harvestable rights dam cannot be supplied to any other property.

Further information on harvestable rights and what you need to know before constructing a harvestable rights dam or using water stored in this type of dam is available below.

Anyone who holds native title with respect to water, as determined under the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993, can take and use water in the exercise of their native title rights without a water licence, water supply work approval (unless the work is a dam or bore), or water use approval.

What are basic landholder rights?

In NSW, you usually need to have a water licence to be able to take water from a natural water body or from underground. But some landholders can also take water without a licence under three types of basic landholder rights.

In coastal-draining catchments there are restrictions on how water in harvestable rights dams can be used. For more information visit Harvestable rights in coastal-draining catchments.

Domestic and stock rights

Find out more about the guidelines for water use for domestic consumption and stock watering.

Native title

If you hold a native title, learn more about what you can take and use water for.

Harvestable rights

Learn more about what landholders are allowed to do under harvestable rights.

Health warning

You are responsible for ensuring that any water you use under a landholder right is safe and suitable to use.

NSW Health warns that water from a dam, river, lake or aquifer can be contaminated with micro-organisms, chemicals or algal blooms.

This water should not be used for drinking or cooking without appropriate treatment.

Information on water quality and treatment is available on the NSW Health website.