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How to comply

Overdrawn accounts

Why are overdrawn accounts important?

When you overdraw your account, you:

  • breach the conditions of your Water Access Licence (WAL) and commit an offence under the Water Management Act 2000
  • restrict access to water for users downstream who have followed the rules
  • could be taking water meant for the environment, negatively affecting water sources and dependent ecosystems.

Like a bank account, you can't take more out of your water account than you have in it.

Overdrawn accounts are one of NRAR’s four regulatory priorities and we’re monitoring compliance across NSW.

How to avoid overdrawing your account

Make sure you:

  • place a water order with WaterNSW before extracting water in regulated water sources
  • enter any outstanding meter reads or non-metered water take in iWAS
  • have sufficient water allocation in your account before taking water
  • trade or transfer sufficient water into your account
  • only take water in line with your licence and approval conditions.

It is an offence to take more than the available water in your water account and go into a negative balance.

Know your licence and approval conditions

To take water from rivers, lakes and aquifers in NSW you must apply for a Water Access Licence, unless you are exempt.

Not knowing the rules doesn’t excuse non-compliance.

Check the conditions of your licence and approvals via the NSW Water Register and watch this video to find out more.

Check your account balance

Monitor and manage your water account to ensure it doesn’t go into a negative balance and become overdrawn.

Register for iWAS, to access your water account balance.  

Make sure to enter any outstanding meter reads or non-metered water take into iWAS to ensure your account has an accurate balance.

Purchase water before you pump

You need to have sufficient water allocation in your account before pumping.

Increase your water balance by purchasing water on the water market, as required.

For more information visit the WaterNSW website.

Case study: Carrathool enforceable undertaking

A Riverina farming enterprise has signed an enforceable undertaking with NRAR after overdrawing their water accounts by 2,280 ML. The legally binding agreement involves hundreds of thousands in financial costs, loss of some water entitlements and three years of weekly monitoring.

What happens if you overdraw your account?

We know from experience that most water users want to do the right thing and believe water should be shared fairly and protected.

Some water users don’t know that they are committing an offence when their water account is overdrawn, so we will first issue advisory and warning letters to notify water users of the breach and help them understand and comply with NSW water laws.

However, we will take strong action against those who repeatedly overdraw.

Some of the ways we respond to overdrawn accounts include formal warnings, stop-work orders, enforceable undertakings, penalty notices, licence suspension or imposing a penalty of up to five times the value of the water taken.

Read more about how we respond to breaches of the law.


What is over-pumping? 

Regulated river WALs have a condition requiring water to be ordered before pumping.

Over-pumping occurs when you take water without an order being placed and confirmed by WaterNSW, or you take more water than you ordered (even if you have enough water allocation).

What is a water account? 

WAL holders have a water account with WaterNSW that can be accessed through iWAS. iWAS allows you to order water, record meter readings and view your water account statement.

Your water account contains a record of all transactions relating to water allocations for your access licence.

What is the Internet Water Accounting System (iWAS)?

iWAS is WaterNSW’s centre of operations, used to manage and deliver water to licensees in NSW.

Find out more at waternsw.com.au/iwas

What is a share component and available water determination (AWD)? 

Your share component is detailed in your WAL and specifies the shares of water available to you.

Available Water Determinations (AWD) reflect the availability of water for a specific water management area or water source and are usually applied at the beginning of the water year on 1 July and then incrementally throughout the year.

Go to WaterNSW’s FAQ’s to find out more.

How do you increase your water account balance? 

Available water can be increased by trading water for sale on the market or transferring from another of your accounts.

Zero share WALs must trade sufficient water into the water account before extracting any water.

Visit WaterNSW’s ordering, trading and pricing page to learn more.