ACCC role in water

The ACCC has legislated functions regarding enforcement, price setting, monitoring and reporting in water markets.

ACCC functions in water

Under the Water Act 2007 (the Water Act) and the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (the CCA), the ACCC has several functions in water, including to:

  • enforce the Water Market Rules 2009 (Water Market Rules) and the Water Charge Rules 2010 (Water Charge Rules) under the Water Act
  • enforce the CCA with water brokers, exchanges and infrastructure operators
  • monitor and report on regulated charges and compliance with the Water Market Rules and Water Charge Rules
  • where regulation has not been returned to a Basin state regulator, to determine regulated charges for on-river infrastructure operators in certain circumstances
  • provide advice to the Commonwealth Minister responsible for water on the Water Market Rules and Water Charge Rules
  • advise the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) on the Basin Plan water trading rules.

See also: Legislation

Enforcing the water market rules and water charge rules

The ACCC is the enforcement agency for the Water Market Rules and Water Charge Rules. The ACCC has prepared guidance to assist understanding of the rules.

Any infringement notices imposed or undertakings received are held on a public register.

See: Undertakings (Water Act s.163)

Water Charge Rules

Following a rule reform process including the ACCC's advice, the Water Charge Rules came into effect on 1 July 2020. To enhance charging transparency, infrastructure operators are now required to provide more detail on their schedules of charges, and to provide customers with information on any termination fees they propose to charge. The old water charge rules were also consolidated into a single instrument.

See: Water charge rules

The Water Charge Rules contain requirements regarding who determines bulk water operators’ infrastructure charges.

See: Determining regulated charges

Water Market Rules

The Water Market Rules 2009 (the Water Market Rules) seek to ensure irrigators can permanently transform their irrigation right into or onto a statutory water access entitlement which they can trade or hold in their own name, free of any trade restrictions imposed by the irrigation infrastructure operator.

See: Water market rules

Enforcing the CCA

The ACCC enforces the CCA and the Australian Competition Law (ACL) in water markets.

The ACCC publishes guides which may assist water brokers, exchanges and irrigation infrastructure operators and their customers to understand their fair trading obligations.

See: Water brokers & water trading

Monitoring and reporting

The ACCC is required to provide the Minister with reports on the results of its monitoring, consistent with this memorandum of understanding between the Minister and the ACCC:
ACCC monitoring under the Water Act 2007 ( PDF 368.17 KB )

The ACCC is responsible for monitoring and reporting on certain water market and charging arrangements in the Murray-Darling Basin.

See: Water monitoring & reporting

Determining regulated charges

The Water Charge Rules contain requirements regarding who determines bulk water operators’ infrastructure charges.

An operator that levies an infrastructure charge for a bulk water service in respect of water access rights will be a ‘Part 6 operator’ if its infrastructure charges are not set by a single State Agency in a way that is consistent with the prudency and efficiency requirements set out in the Water Charge Rules.

If an operator is a Part 6 operator and the ACCC has not granted an exemption, then the ACCC will determine its infrastructure charges. In considering whether to grant an exemption the ACCC must have regard to a range of factors.

If the ACCC does grant an exemption, or the bulk water operator is not a Part 6 operator, then the operator’s infrastructure charges will be determined under State law.

More information regarding these changes can be found in the ACCC’s 2016 final advice on the water charge rules.

See: Water projects

Preparing policy advice on water rules

Under the Water Act, the Minister may make water market rules and water charge rules. Before making or amending these rules, the Minister must ask the ACCC for advice.

The following Rules have been made by the Minister:

See: Water projects – for current and finalised policy advice requests

Providing advice for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority

Under the Water Act, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) was required to prepare the Basin Plan which includes provisions on water trading. Before the MDBA can amend the Basin Plan water trading rules it must obtain and have regard to the advice of the ACCC. These water trading rules are enforced by the MDBA.

See: Water trading rules: advice development

Submissions by the ACCC

On occasion, the ACCC provides submissions to external water consultation processes:

Submissions by the ACCC

Make a complaint or seek more information

If you feel that one of your rights has been breached, that an operator or broker is not complying with the rules or you would like more information:

Phone: 1300 302 502
Email: water@accc.gov.au
Mail: Water Branch
ACCC
GPO Box 3131
Canberra ACT 2601

Related media releases

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ACCC takes first action to enforce termination fee rules

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