A NSW Government website

Domestic and stock rights

Frequently asked questions

This page provides answers to frequently asked questions about water that landholders take under their domestic and stock rights.

Overview of domestic and stock rights

What are domestic and stock rights?

Domestic and stock rights are a right for landholders on land with river, lake or estuary frontage, or above an aquifer, to take and use water for domestic consumption and stock watering without certain authorisations1.
These rights are a type of basic landholder right.

Why do domestic and stock rights exist?

The Water Management Act 2000 established domestic and stock rights, a part of basic landholder rights, to replace riparian rights that existed under the Water Act 1912. The rights are aimed at providing a quantity of water for domestic and stock use without requiring licensing or approvals.

Does the landholder have to be the owner of the land?

No. For domestic and stock rights to apply, the landholder can be the owner of the land or a lawful occupier2. A lawful occupier includes a person with a lease, easement or Crown land licence.

What authorisations are required to take groundwater under domestic and stock rights?

A water supply work approval is required to construct a water bore and take groundwater under domestic and stock rights.

A water supply work approval for a water bore may authorise:

  • the construction and use of the bore for any purpose by the landholder, subject to any other authorisations, OR
  • the construction of the bore under domestic and stock rights only - in this case the water taken can only be used by the landholder for domestic consumption and stock watering.

A water access licence or water use approval are not required for domestic and stock rights3.

Information on how to apply for a water supply work approval is available on the WaterNSW applications and fees webpage.

How do I find out if my water supply work approval is for domestic and stock rights only?

Use your approval number to check the record for your approval on the NSW Water Register.

If the approval record says the kind of approval is ‘basic rights’, then your water supply work approval is for domestic and stock rights only (unless you are eligible for Native Title rights).

If I do not have domestic and stock rights, can I still take groundwater for domestic and stock purposes?

Yes, but you will need to apply for a domestic and stock water access licence.

The construction and use of the bore to take water under a domestic and stock licence must also be authorised by a water supply work approval, unless other exemptions apply.

More information on water access licences, including domestic and stock licences, is available on the WaterNSW website.

What can water taken under domestic and stock rights be used for? 

Water taken under domestic and stock rights can only be used for domestic consumption and stock watering by the landholder.

Domestic consumption and stock watering are defined in Section 52 of the Water Management Act 2000 and explained in the Domestic and stock rights FAQs (PDF, 1228.5 KB)

What is domestic consumption?

Domestic consumption means the use of water for normal household purposes in connection with a dwelling or domestic premises situated on the land where the water is taken. This includes water for drinking, laundry, or watering a garden connected to the household.

What is stock watering?     

Stock watering is providing water to stock animals being raised on the land for drinking, and to maintain health and hygiene.

Stock watering does not mean:

  • providing water to stock animals in an intensive commercial operation, where the animals are housed or kept in feedlots or other building types, or
  • irrigating feed for stock animals.

Do I need a water meter on a bore used only for domestic and stock rights?

No, a water meter is not required for a water bore used only for domestic and stock rights.

If the water supply work approval for a water bore authorises the construction of the bore for domestic and stock purposes only, there is no requirement to install a water meter under the new non-urban water metering rules as an exemption applies4.

If the water supply work approval for a water bore authorises the construction and use of the bore generally, but if the bore is only used to take water for domestic and stock rights, then the approval is not required to be nominated by a water access licence and an exemption from the non-urban water metering rules applies 5.

If the water supply work approval for a water bore authorises the construction and use of the bore generally, and the bore is used for domestic and stock rights and other licenced take, then a water-meter may be required.

See NSW non-urban metering for more information about non-urban metering rules.

What happens if the water sharing plan in my area changes and the conditions on my water supply work approval change?

You will be notified of any changes to the conditions of your water supply work approval.

Changes are most likely to occur when the water sharing plan is remade (every 10 years) or amended.

All new conditions apply immediately, but only in relation to future activities. There is no impact on past activities as new conditions do not apply retrospectively.

Future activities include:

  • bore construction, such as requirements for headworks to enable the control of water flow, requirements if contaminated water is encountered, and requirements to submit information using a “Form A
  • decommissioning bores which are no longer being used to ensure they are safe and contaminated water cannot enter the bore.

Domestic and stock licences

What are the water meter requirements under the new non-urban water metering rules?

The new non-urban water metering rules require most water supply works, including water bores and pumps, to have metering equipment. Some exemptions apply for low-risk works.

See NSW non-urban metering for more information about non-urban metering rules.

See also, Do I need a water meter on a bore used only for domestic and stock rights?

Do I need a water meter on a bore or pump used only for a domestic and stock water access licence? 

The NSW Government has established a temporary exemption under the non-urban metering rules so that small pumps or bores taking water for domestic and stock licenced purposes only are not required to be metered.

If all the statements in the checklist below apply to your pump or bore, it is exempt from the new metering rules:

  • My work is a pump less than 100 mm in diameter or a bore less than 200 mm in diameter
  • My work is linked to a water access licence for domestic and stock, domestic only or stock only
  • My work does not take groundwater from an ‘at-risk’ groundwater source. You can find a list of ‘at-risk’ groundwater sources in the Non-Urban Metering Policy (PDF, 648.4 KB) or the WaterNSW At-risk groundwater sources - metering fact sheet
  • My work is not listed under the same authority or linked to the same access licence as another work that requires a meter
  • My work is not on the same landholding as another work that requires a meter and is held by the same person.

This exemption ensures that the metering rules apply consistently to small, low-risk works that only take water for domestic and stock purposes, regardless of whether that water is taken under a licence or a basic landholder right.

This temporary exemption from metering will lapse on 1 December 2024, but it will be reviewed as part of a broader review of metering planned for 2024.

Do I need a water meter if I use the same bore to take water under a water access licence and domestic and stock rights?

Yes, a water meter is required for a water bore used to take water under a water access licence and domestic and stock rights, unless an exemption applies. For example, an exemption could apply if the bore’s diameter is below a certain size then an exemption may apply depending on the bore’s location6.

If you need a water meter, the date by which a meter must be installed and operating depends on:

  • your location, and
  • whether you are already required to have a meter under the water sharing plan rules.

For more information, go to metering.

Domestic and stock rights review

Are domestic and stock rights being reviewed?

Yes, as part of the NSW Water Strategy (action 1.6) the NSW Government has committed to review the regulation of domestic and stock basic landholder rights.

Why are domestic and stock rights being reviewed?

Yes, a water meter is required for a water bore used to take water under a water access licence and domestic and stock rights, unless an exemption applies. For example, an exemption could apply if the bore’s diameter is below a certain size then an exemption may apply depending on the bore’s

Several reviews into water management have recommended additional rules or requirements for domestic and stock basic landholder rights as a logical next step towards improving water management in NSW.

For example, the Murray–Darling Basin Water Compliance Review noted domestic and stock rights are often poorly understood by water users, there is no requirement to report water take and there is limited compliance action. It recommended that all Basin governments ‘audit water take by stock and domestic and other rights holder to identify areas of stress on water resources from the exercise of these rights, and put in place measures to monitor compliance’.

Furthermore, the Independent Panel Assessment of the Management of the 2020 Northern Basin First Flush Event also recommended that NSW needed a better understanding of volumetric requirements for domestic and stock basic landholder rights so these can be factored into planning and preparation for such events.

Recent droughts have raised further issues around the way water is taken and used under domestic and stock landholder rights during extreme dry periods and resulting water shortages.

What will the review of domestic and stock rights include?

The first phase of the review will assess the current situation and usage of rights to understand whether this is creating risks in particular areas or circumstances. This will include consulting with the community on the current rules and requirements, and their understanding and expectations of these rights.

Later phases of the review may assess options for improving understanding of domestic and stock basic landholder rights, and consider whether rules are required to better manage the rights and enhance the regulator’s ability to enforce compliance.

If you would like to be kept informed of updates to the review and opportunities to provide feedback, please email domesticstockrights@dpie.nsw.gov.au

1. Water Management Act 2000, section 52.
2. Water Management Act 2000, Dictionary section.
3. Water Management Act 2000, section 52.
4. Water Management (General) Regulation 2018, clause 231(1)(d).
5. Water Management (General) Regulation 2018, clause 231(1)(g).

6. Water Management (General) Regulation 2018, clause 231(3).