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The value of water

Water resources are the foundation of healthy communities, environments and economies. We all depend on water in many ways.

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

We recently commissioned a second report on the value of water entitlements in NSW. It builds on our first Value of Water Report in 2021-22. The report shows that water entitlements have increased in value. They were worth over $29 billion two years ago. In 2023, they are estimated to be worth $41 billion. This is a 17 per cent increase in two years.

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

We now have the most comprehensive understanding of the value of water entitlement and the economic benefits of its usage.

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

Key findings:

  • Increasing demand from horticulture and viticulture, like grapes, and from cotton and high-value crops, like blueberries, drives the rising value of water licences.
  • Tradeable water entitlements (for irrigation and environment) are worth $25-$34 billion.
  • Town water entitlements are worth $5.8 billion and underpin the 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. This amount doesn't include the economic impacts of water used in industries like mining.
  • Water access leads to total direct and flow-on benefits of about $5.5 billion for regional economies. These benefits come 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. These include environmental outcomes, cultural outcomes for First Nations people, and also economic and social outcomes for recreational and commercial fishing and tourism.

These benefits were not measured in this study.

Water and Indigenous communities

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