Who were the largest owners of water in 2019/20?

This page provides insights to address community interest in water ownership, focusing on northern Victoria for the 2019-20 irrigation season.

During consultation in 2019 the community asked to know the names of the largest holders of water in each area. The agreed definition of large resulting from this consultation was anyone owning over two per cent of water in a system.

A small number of owners meet the 2% threshold and are listed below.

The Commonwealth Government is the largest single owner of water shares in both the Goulburn and Murray systems.

Owners who hold more than 2% of high reliability water shares


1 - For further information on commonwealth environmental water holdings visit https://www.environment.gov.au/water/cewo/about/water-holdings
2 - For further information on the VEWHs water portfolio visit https://www.vewh.vic.gov.au/watering-program/how-much-water-is-available

3 - State Street Australia Limited is the registered owner of these water entitlements in its capacity as custodian. The beneficial owner of the economic interest in these water entitlements is Aware Super Pty Limited as trustee of the Aware Superannuation Scheme
4 - Australian Executor Trustees Limited is the registered owner of these water entitlements in its capacity as custodian. The beneficial owner of the economic interest in these water entitlements includes the Argyle Water Fund

What proportion of water shares are not tied to land?

People often ask if water is tied to land or not, as they want to know if the water is owned by irrigators. However, looking at water shares not tied to land is not really an accurate indicator of whether those owners are active water users or not. The Commonwealth Government holds most of their water not tied to land but typically uses all their water each year.

Water shares can be tied to land or not:

  • A water share that is tied to land is linked to a water use licence, which is a right to irrigate a specific parcel or parcels of land.
  • Water share owners can choose whether to tie their water share to land or not – for example some people choose to do so for administrative ease or for financial reasons such as minimising fees.

In 2019-20, 386 GL of privately owned high reliability water shares in northern Victoria are not tied to land. 

This is 16 per cent of a total 2,455 GL water shares, up from 12 per cent reported for 2017-18 (see Water Market Trends: Updated Trends in Northern Victoria Water Trade 2001-2018).

Who owns the rest of the water shares?

The figure below shows the ownership of all high reliability water shares in northern Victoria. Each water share is shown as a box and the size of the box is proportional to its volume. The large green box is the volume held by the Commonwealth Government for environmental use. The blue boxes represent all the many private owners, and orange are the water corporations.

Nearly 60% of water shares are privately owned shares smaller than 360 ML, these are all the small blue boxes.


Foreign ownership of water entitlements

Some Victorian water entitlements are foreign owned. The Australian Taxation Office reports on foreign ownership of water, the latest report is on their website. At 30 June 2019, 3.4% of Victorian water entitlements were foreign owned. Australia wide 10.5% of water entitlements are foreign owned.

Publishing this information

Part 5A of the Water Act 1989 sets out the purpose of the Victorian Water Register, including to make information about water markets publicly available. This information was published in accordance with section 84EA.