Clean and sustainable water in South Australia

A clean environment supports the production of quality food. The sustainable use of resources, especially water, will ensure a long-term food system that can minimize negative impacts on the environment.

South Australia ensures fit-for-purpose use of water with a comprehensive system of strategic and regional:

  • water planning
  • allocation
  • management.

The system is underpinned by a strong legislative and regulatory framework and monitoring systems that ensure that the state’s water:

  • quality is maintained
  • use is sustainable.

Water demand planning

Planning to ensure a sustainable future for water is undertaken at a number of levels:

  • At a strategic, longer term level ‘Water for Good: a plan to ensure our water future to 2050’ deals with a broad range of issues to secure a reliable supply of water for the state.
  • Regional Demand and Supply Statements help forecast potential future shortfalls in water supply in order to plan ahead (40 years) to address the gaps. The Department of Environment and Water (DEW) creates these statements.
  • SA Water’s long-term plans aim to ensure that our drinking water supply system has sufficient capacity over a long term (30 years) to enable growth and development across the state.

Water allocation planning

Where a water resource needs close management (in response to increased resource development pressures and/or community concern), it is prescribed under the Natural Resources Management Act 2004. Prescription of a resource triggers a series of actions leading to the regulation of water extraction by a licensing regime and the implementation of a water allocation plan that set the water extraction and management regime for the resource.

There are about 30 prescribed water resources in South Australia, covering the state’s significant developed water resources. Each has, or will have, a statutory water allocation plan, developed by the Natural Resources Management Boards for each prescribed water resource in their region; water allocation plans.

Water resources outside prescribed areas are managed under the relevant water licensing and water affecting requirements of the Natural Resources Management Act and in accordance with water resource related provisions of the regional statutory natural resources management plans.

Water quality

The EPA monitors South Australian waterways (lakes, creeks, rivers, marine) to assess their condition and provide information that can be used to guide management decisions.

The EPA also:

  • licences businesses
  • sets and enforces standards
  • undertakes inspections and compliance activities on:
    • pollutants and wastes that can be discharged to water bodies
    • activities that potentially can cause environmental harm.
  • monitors and researches environmental conditions
  • assesses the environmental impacts of major developments.


Water allocation

The Natural Resources Management Act 2004 established Regional Natural Resources Management (NRM) Boards. The boards are responsible for establishing Water Allocation Plans (WAP’s) for the critical water resources in their regions.

A licence is required to access and use water resources covered by a WAP, except for stock and domestic use. The licensing system is managed by the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEW).

Drinking water supply

The Water Industry Act 2012 and the Safe Drinking Water Act 2011 regulate the water industry (reticulated and potable supply to industry and domestic consumers) by providing a licensing regime and regulation of:

  • prices
  • customer service standards
  • technical standards for:
    • water and sewerage infrastructure
    • installations and plumbing
  • monitoring performance of the water industry.

This legislation applies to the state’s major drinking water supplier, SA Water, a government business enterprise established under the South Australia Water Corporation Act 1994

Environmental water

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is South Australia’s leading environmental regulator and is responsible for the:

  • protection of air and water quality
  • control of:
    • pollution
    • waste
    • noise
    • radiation.

The EPA administers the Environment Protection Act 1993 and associated environment protection policies, guidelines and codes of practice.

More information

Legislation governing water in South Australia:

Page Last Reviewed: 31 Jul 2016
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