What is an environmental entitlement?
An environmental entitlement is a right to water granted to the Victorian Environmental Water Holder for the purpose of maintaining an environmental water reserve or improving the environmental values and health of the water ecosystems and other users that depend on environmental condition (section 4B).
Environmental entitlements are issued by the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water under the Water Act 1989. Environmental entitlements are issued under section 48B of this Act, through an order published in the Victoria Government Gazette.
This may be done following an application by the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (section 48C). In granting an environmental entitlement, the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water must follow the administrative procedures set out in section 48D-section 48J.
Environmental Entitlements were included in the Water Act via the Water (Resource Management) Act 2005. The Water (Resource Management) Act 2005 amended the Water Act 1989 to create the legal foundation for water to be set aside to maintain environmental values of rivers and streams. It is intended that environmental provisions embedded in existing bulk entitlements will be converted into environmental entitlements.
Environmental entitlements form part of the Environmental Water Reserve. They enable active management of water to meet specific environmental needs such as fish spawning triggers or maintaining critical habitat during drought.
The objective of the Environmental Water Reserve is to preserve the environmental values and health of water ecosystems, including their biodiversity, ecological functioning and quality of water and other uses that depend on environmental condition (section 4B). It is the responsibility of the holder of an environmental entitlement to manage it accordingly.
Who can hold an environmental entitlement?
In August 2010 the Victorian Parliament passed an amendment to the Water Act 1989 to establish the independent Victorian Environmental Water Holder. The Water Holder took over responsibility for holding and managing Victoria's environmental water entitlements from the then Minister for Environment in July 2011. Find out more about the Victorian Environmental Water Holder.
The Victorian Environmental Water Holder may delegate responsibility for managing the environmental entitlement.
In addition, the Victorian Environmental Water Holder may trade its water entitlements and allocations (section 48L and 480A). This can only be done if the Victorian Environmental Water Holder believes that it would benefit the objectives of the Environmental Water Reserve. A temporary or permanent trade requires the approval of the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water.
What rights and responsibilities are granted under an environmental entitlement?
As with any consumptive entitlements, environmental entitlements specify a range of conditions and obligations. These specifications may include (section 48I – in particular, see note to section 48I(a)):
- rules about when water can be taken and in what volume
- the reliability associated with the entitlement
- obligations to contribute to the payment of operation and maintenance costs
- accounting and reporting obligations
- rules for the release of water.