This booklet is one in a series of eight legal booklets for farmers
- About the booklet
- Roles and responsibilities
- Acronyms and abbreviations
- Key terms
- Relevant laws, guidelines and Codes
- Legislation and the farmer
- Further information
About the booklet
This booklet is one of a series of eight covering legal aspects of managing a farm:
- Chemical Management
- Introduction to Occupational Health and Safety
- Livestock Management
- Noxious Weed and Pest Animal Management
- Soil Management
- Waste Management
- Water Management
Each booklet provides a list of the relevant legislation and explains the purpose of each.
They have been written for land managers and primary producers. Each booklet consists of the following sections:
Key terms, acronyms and abbreviations – an explanation of some of the language and terms used throughout the booklet.
Introduction – a summary of the intention of the legislation.
Roles and responsibilities – an explanation of roles played by national, state and local governments, their agencies and farmers.
Relevant laws, guidelines and Codes – the relevant Acts, guidelines and Codes covering farm management in Victoria.
Legislation and the farmer – A table of potential situations with an explanation of a farmer's obligations or the implications under the relevant Acts in Victoria.
All Victorian land owners who access surface water or groundwater for either domestic and stock use or for irrigation have a number of legal obligations regarding the licensed take and use of that water.
There are also legal obligations relating to the quantity and quality of water leaving the farm and discharging into waters.
Roles and responsibilities
The management of water on and off farm is a shared responsibility between State Government, rural water supply authorities, Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs), Local Government and land owners.
Under the Water Act 1989 the Minister for Water, on behalf of the Crown, allocates water to Authorities by means of Bulk entitlements and, when required, to individuals under a licence and in declared systems by way of a water share. The controlling authority is the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) with local responsibility delegated to the relevant Water Corporations.
Licensing of the take and use of water anywhere in a catchment and the construction of dams on waterways has been delegated to the relevant Water Corporations. Catchment Management Authorities (which will be called 'Natural Resource and Catchment Authorities' from 1 July 2011) are responsible for managing other proposed works on waterways.
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) administers the Environment Protection Act 1970. This Act puts in place a wide range of environmental safeguards relevant to water management and the regulation of discharges into waters.
Local Government has a role in ensuring that local drainage networks are adequate and must also ensure, through planning and development, that the municipality has adequate flood protection.
Land owners have a responsibility to manage water on their farm in a way that does not adversely affect commercial agricultural production on neighbouring farms, and to ensure that the quality of any water leaving the farm does not have an adverse impact on a waterway.
Acronyms / abbreviations
CaLP Act Catchment and Land Protection (Act 1994)
GMA Groundwater Management Area
CMA Catchment Management Authority
PCV Permissible Consumptive Volume
SEPPs State Environment Protection Policies
DSE Department of Sustainability and Environment
VPPs Victorian Planning Provisions
EPA Environment Protection Authority
WSPA Water Supply Protection Area
Aquifer– A layer of underground sediments which holds groundwater or allows water to flow through it.
Basin – A topographic region in which all water drains to a common outlet, such as a river. The Basin area includes both the tributaries that convey the water, as well as the land surfaces from which water drains into those tributaries or the river itself.
Bulk entitlement – The right to water held by water and other authorities defined in the Water Act 1989. The Bulk entitlement defines the amount of water from a river or storage to which an authority is entitled, and may include the rate at which it may be taken and the reliability of the entitlement. It is issued via a statutory instrument called a Bulk entitlement conversion order.
Catchment – An area of land where run-off from rainfall goes into one river system.
Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) – Statutory bodies established under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 (CaLP Act). CMAs have responsibilities under the CaLP Act and the Water Act 1989 that include river health, regional and catchment planning and co-ordination, and waterway, floodplain, salinity and water quality management.
Declared Water Systems – A water system that has been declared in accordance with section 6A of the Water Act 1989. Water rights and 'take and use' licences in Declared Water Systems have been 'unbundled' into water shares, delivery shares and a water use licence.
Delivery share – An entitlement to have water delivered to land in an irrigation district (in a Declared Water System) and a share of the available water flow in a delivery system.
Environmental entitlement – A Bulk entitlement held by the Minister for the Environment that permits the use of water in a river or storage for a purpose that benefits the environment.
Gigalitre – One thousand megalitres.
Groundwater – The water in an Aquifer.
Groundwater entitlement limit – The amount of water which can be allocated in an Aquifer under licences and is defined by the permissible consumptive volume (PCV).
Groundwater management unit – A discrete area where specific groundwater management rules are defined. There are three types: a Groundwater Management Area (GMA), a Water Supply Protection Area (WSPA) or Unincorporated Area.
Groundwater Management Area (GMA) – A discrete area where groundwater has been intensively developed or has the potential to be (in that its resources are of a suitable quality for irrigation, commercial or domestic and stock use).
Irrigation district – An area declared under the Water Act 1989 within which water is distributed for irrigation purposes by channels and pipelines that are owned by a Water Corporation.
Land owner – Under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 (Vic), the definition of 'owner' includes an occupier.
Megalitre – One million litres.
Permissible consumptive volume (PCV) – A cap set by the Minister for Water that provides the maximum volume of water that can be allocated in a GMA or a WSPA. PCVs exist to prevent the groundwater being depleted. Many GMAs and WSPAs are already allocated to their PCV limit. In these areas new licences cannot be issued. The only way to acquire new water in these areas is to purchase a licence from an existing groundwater entitlement holder.
Regulated river – A river containing structures such as dams or major diversion weirs that control the flow of water in the river for licensed diverters or users in an irrigation district.
Reliability – Water shares are classed according to their reliability, which is defined by the frequency with which full seasonal allocations are expected to be available. Most water shares are classified as either high-reliability or low-reliability water shares. Seasonal allocations are made as a first priority against high-reliability water shares. High-reliability water-shares are expected to reach 100% allocations in 95 years out of 100. In contrast, seasonal allocations are only made against low-reliability water shares once there is enough water to meet high-reliability water shares in the current year, and, with minimum inflows, to meet high-reliability water shares in the following year.
River – Large stream of water flowing to the sea, a lake or marsh, or another river.
Seasonal water allocation – A percentage of the water share volume that is actually available to water share holders in a given water system during a given irrigation season. Allocations in each water system are set by the managing Authority at intervals throughout the irrigation season after assessment of the available water resources. These are sometimes just called an 'allocation'.
Streamflow Management Plan – A management plan prepared for a Water Supply Protection Area to manage the surface water resources of the area.
'Take and use' licence – A licence (granted under section 51 of the Water Act 1989) that can grants the holder the right to take and use water from waterways, dams, springs and soaks, works of an authority, or groundwater (as applicable). In order to access water under this type of licence, a person will also need to operate works. This may involve bore or dam construction and/or the use of pumping equipment. In order to do this a section 67 works licence is also required. The two licences are normally incorporated into the one licence document. In Declared Water Systems, 'take and use' licences have been 'unbundled' into three entitlements: a water share, a delivery share and a water use licence. 'Take and use' licences for groundwater are called groundwater licences and those issued for surface water are called diversion licences.
Unbundling – The process by which prior water rights and 'take and use' licences in Declared Water Systems were converted into three separate entitlements: a water share; a delivery share or extraction share; and a water-use licence.
Unincorporated Area – An area that has not been designated as either a GMA or WSPA which may contain substantial and often unquantified groundwater of varying yield and quality.
Unregulated river – A river that does not contain any dams or major diversion weirs to control the flow of water in the river.
Water Corporations – Corporations (previously known as Water Authorities) established under the Water Act 1989 that have responsibilities to supply water for urban, irrigation, domestic, stock and commercial use. Some Water Corporations also have delegated responsibilities for controlling the diversion of water from waterways, passing flows and the extraction of groundwater.
Water entitlement – The volume of water authorised to be taken and used by an irrigator or Water Corporation. Water entitlements include Bulk entitlements, environmental entitlements, water shares and 'take and use' licences.
Water share – A legally recognised, secure share of the water available for use in a defined water system. A water share is specified as a maximum volume of seasonal water allocation that may be made against that share. Water shares may be high-reliability or low-reliability.
Water use licence – A licence that authorises the use of water for the purpose of irrigation on the land specified in that licence. Water use licences relate to water from Declared Water Systems (in which water entitlements have been unbundled). Unlike water shares and delivery shares, water use licences must be held by an owner/occupier of land.
Water Supply Protection Area – An area declared under section 27 of the Water Act 1989 to protect the area's groundwater or surface water resources through the development of a management plan.
Waterway – A river, creek, stream, watercourse and a natural channel where water regularly flows, whether or not the flow is continuous.
Works licence – A licence that authorises the construction, alteration, operation, removal or decommissioning of any works on a waterway, a bore or a dam belonging to a prescribed class of dams.
Yield – The quantity of water that a storage or Aquifer produces.
Relevant laws, guidelines and Codes
Water Act 1989
The Water Act 1989 is the legislation that governs the way water entitlements are issued and allocated in Victoria. It defines water entitlements and establishes the mechanisms for managing Victoria's water resources.
There are a range of entitlements that may be issued by the Minister for Water including Bulk entitlements, environmental entitlements, 'take and use' licences and water shares. The Minister's power to grant 'take and use' licences and issue water shares has been delegated to the relevant Water Corporations. Deciding how many water entitlements to issue is a balancing act between consumptive needs and environmental uses.
A water allocation is the amount of water that can be used under water share each year. The allocation depends on the conditions during the year and in a dry year an allocation will be reduced.
The Act provides a number of mechanisms to cap the total amount of water that can be taken out of a particular water system, including Permissible consumptive volumes (PCVs) (which limit the total volume of water, whether surface water or groundwater, that can be taken in a particular area or water system for a specified period), management plans for Water Supply Protection Areas (WSPAs) (which may restrict the taking of water to ensure that flows in waterways or groundwater levels are maintained), the Border Groundwaters Agreement between Victoria and South Australia (which limits the amount of groundwater that can be allocated in a 40-kilometre designated area centred on the border between the two states) and the Murray Darling Basin Agreement (which established a cap on the amount of water that can be used in the Basin and has the effect of preventing additional water from being allocated).
The Act allows individuals to take water for domestic and stock purposes from a range of surface water and groundwater sources without a licence. They include farm dams for domestic and stock purposes, so long as the dam is not on a waterway (in which case a licence is required). A 'take and use' licence is required for all farm dams supplying water for irrigation and commercial uses and for all domestic and stock dams that are built on waterways. In these circumstances, a works licence will also be required to operate the dam, although this is usually incorporated into the 'take and use' licence document.
Also, a Works licence is also required to construct, alter, remove or decommission a private dam that is of a particular size. Contact us before you plan to construct or alter a dam or bore.
Should a farm dam fail (or if there is an unreasonable flow of water from one property to another), the land owner may be held legally liable for all associated damage caused by the water flowing from his or her property.
Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994
This Act is the principal legislation for the management of land degradation (soil, erosion, salinity, and pest plants and animals). It sets up a framework for the integrated management and protection of catchments. It does this by dividing the State into regions, establishing the Victorian Catchment Management Council to manage catchment resources on a State-wide basis, establishing regional CMAs for each of the land protection regions and allowing the creation of special area plans to deal with specific land management issues in a particular area. Strategies and plans developed by a CMA may be incorporated into a planning scheme under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 or into a State Environment Protection Policy under the Environment Protection Act 1970.
Heritage Rivers Act 1992
Eighteen river segments with special scenic, recreational, cultural or ecological values have been declared Heritage Rivers under the Heritage Rivers Act 1992. Various Natural Catchment Areas are also listed. The Schedules to the Act restrict how and where certain water and land uses in particular areas, such as logging and water diversions, can occur. Under the Act, the Minister can request the preparation of a management plan by the relevant authority.
Environment Protection Act 1970
This Act deals with a wide range of environmental safeguards, including regulation of discharges into waters.
The Act establishes the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and outlines its powers, duties, and functions. These relate to improving air quality, land and water environments by managing waters, control of noise and control of pollution (see Waste Management booklet).
State Environment Protection Policies
State Environment Protection Policies (SEPPs) are made under this Act to protect the beneficial uses of the environment while protecting that environment. An example might be the application of fertilisers and animal manures in relation to impacts on surface and groundwaters.
The current SEPPs affecting water management are:
- SEPP (Waters of Victoria)
- SEPP (Management of Contaminated Land)
- SEPP (Groundwaters of Victoria). All the above Acts are administered by DSE except for the
Environment Protection Act 1970, which is administered by the EPA.
DairyGains Dairy Effluent Management Guidelines
These Guidelines are the result of collaboration between us, the EPA and various dairy industry bodies. They focus on the outcomes expected from legislative requirements and industry, and provide examples of best management practice of various aspects of effluent management on farm. The guidelines do not provide a prescription for what must be done, allowing innovative approaches to be used.
Victorian Code of Practice – Piggeries 1992
The Code of Practice – Piggeries is the current Code for all piggery developments in Victoria. It specifies minimal standards that apply to new piggeries or where there are substantial modifications to existing piggeries. It is designed to assist municipal councils, pig producers and planning authorities in the proper establishment and operation of new piggeries or where there are major modifications to existing piggeries.
Relevant to water management, the Code covers effluent collection systems, as well as waste water (which includes slurries) that is discharged off the premises and subsequently re-used (e.g. to irrigate a neighbour's property).
Victorian Code for Cattle Feedlots 1995
The Victorian Code for Cattle Feedlots 1995 was developed to facilitate the financially and environmentally sound development of cattle feedlots in Victoria.
The Code is a State planning document and is incorporated into all planning schemes in Victoria. Local Councils implement the Code at the local level. The Code covers the additional requirements for feedlots being developed in water supply catchment areas (under the CaLP Act) and the basic requirements for a waste management plan.
Victorian Code for Broiler Farms 2009
The Victorian Code for Broiler Farms was incorporated into the Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes in Victoria on 21 September 2009 and replaces the 2001 Code. It requires all aspects of the broiler farm operation (including the broiler sheds and stormwater systems) to be designed to avoid nutrient run-off to ground and surface waters.
The Code provides a basis for the planning, design, assessment, approval, construction, operation and management of broiler farms in Victoria. It seeks to present an appropriate balance between the operational needs of the broiler farm industry and the protection of the environment.
Under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 a planning permit is required for all broiler farm development. Compliance with the Code is mandatory for the establishment of all new broiler farms and expansion of existing broiler farm.
Legislation and the farmer
Key questions for farmers about water management
Consider the following questions. If you are unsure of the answers to these questions, look through the table on the following pages for more information or phone the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) Customer Service Centre on 136 186.
- Am I using water other than for domestic or stock use?
- If so, do I have the requisite licence?
- If I have a Registration licence should I convert it to a Standard licence?
- Is my dam safe?
- Do I comply with the terms of my Water Licence?
- What management plans (including those for Water Supply Protection Areas or Stream Flow Management Plans) apply to my district?
- Do these plans have the potential to affect my property?
- Am I making use of incentive schemes for water use?
|Farm activity or situation||On-farm obligations or implications|
|Domestic or stock use of water|
|Licences to take and use|
|Water grants and incentives|
|Licence application process for surface water|
|Licence application process for groundwater|
|Licences to construct dams and bores|
Historically, the right to water in Victoria was regarded by many as being 'linked' to the land that the farmer owned. The amount of water that a farmer could draw from the irrigation system (known as a water right) was expressed in volume (megalitres) and each year the farmer would get a percentage of that water right. The level of that percentage would vary, depending on how much water was in the storage dams in that particular year.
The water right could be traded to other land owners and was often of very significant value – sometimes more than the land to which it had been attached. If it was sold, it would then 'reattach' to the purchaser's land.
In 2004, the Victorian Government released an action plan titled Our Water Our Future. Unbundling formed part of that action plan. Unbundling involves the splitting of the water right into its distinct components:
|Other works on waterways||The CMAs and Melbourne Water are responsible for authorising the construction of works other than dams and works associated with the taking and using water, for example crossing and other structures.|
|Process to obtain licence toconstruct works|
|Dams on subdivisions|
|Bores for domestic and stock use|
|Permissible Consumptive Volumes|
|Water supply protection areas and management plans|
|Catchment Management Strategies|
|Sustainable Water Strategies Western Region|
|Conversion of licences|
|Liability of land owners arising from water management|
|Role of Water Corporations|
|Role of Water Corporations (continued)|
For information on water management on farms in Victoria visit www.water.vic.gov.au or phone the Customer Service Centre on 136 186
Topics covered under the heading 'Farms and the Land' include:
- Irrigation in Victoria
- Land and Water Management Plans
- Dairy Wash Licensing
- Linking Farms Initiative
- Salinity Management Strategy
- Groundwater and Bores
- Emergency Water Supply Points
- Sustainable Irrigation Program
- Government Investment
- Water Smart Farms
- Irrigation Drainage
- Irrigation Development Guidelines
- Drought Assistance
ISBN 978-1-74264-482-0 (print) ISBN 978-1-74264-483-7 (online)
This publication may be of assistance to you but the State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication.
Contact us for more information.