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The value of water

Water resources are the foundation of healthy communities, environments and economies. All of us depend on water in so many ways. When you take water in NSW without following the rules, it’s not just water you’re taking.

Recognising how crucial water is (and its value) is integral to how we manage it, and how water laws are enforced.

Water and industry

Find out what having a water licence and following the rules means to Bruce Chapman, a Bendemeer based farmer.

Economic value of water

NRAR recently commissioned its second report on the value of water entitlements in NSW. It builds on our first Value of Water Report in 2021-22, and shows that water entitlements have increased in value from more than $29 billion two years ago to an estimated $41 billion in 2023. This is a 17 per cent increase in just two years.

The new report also sought to put a dollar value on access to town water and stock and domestic supplies as well.

NRAR now has the most comprehensive picture to date of what water entitlement is worth and the economic benefits that flow from its use.

This knowledge helps us to better understand the circumstances and motivations of water users, and to put our staff and efforts into areas where competition for water is greatest.

Key findings:

  • The rising value of water licences is being driven by increasing demand from horticulture (fruits and nuts) and viticulture (grapes), from cotton production, and from high value crop production, like blueberries.
  • Tradeable water entitlements (for irrigation and environment) are worth $25-$34 billion.
  • Town water entitlements are worth $5.8 billion and underpin the whole NSW economy. Nearly 70 per cent is located along the coast.
  • Domestic and stock entitlements are worth $0.8 billion and 80 per cent is in the southern inland zone.
  • The most valuable water assets in NSW are in the Southern Inland zone and the Murray and Murrumbidgee regions, worth more than $23 billion.  This is an increase of 21 per cent on $19 billion estimated in 2021.
  • Water entitlements support agricultural production value of $3.7 billion a year - and this is without counting the economic impacts of water used in industries such as mining.
  • Water access leads to total direct and flow-on benefits of about $5.5 billion for regional economies from irrigated agricultural production.

Download the 2023 water value report

Social and cultural value of water

The report acknowledged that water entitlements also support other important benefits not measured in this study.

This includes environmental outcomes, cultural outcomes for First Nations people, economic and social outcomes for recreational and commercial fishing and tourism.

Water and Indigenous communities

We spoke with Phil Duncan, NRAR’s first Indigenous board member about what water means to him and his community.