Beneficial water use

An important part of water quality management is to identify how the community values and uses a water resource.

Beneficial uses describe how a water resource benefits the community.

In the Northern Territory (NT) beneficial uses or values have been set for major aquifers and river catchments. These values are then used to set water quality targets.

There are 10 categories used to describe values for groundwater and surface water.

The same water quality is not needed for all types of water use.

The nine categories are:

  1. Agriculture - irrigation water for primary production, including related research.
  2. Aquaculture - water for commercial production of aquatic animals, including related research.
  3. Public water supply - water for drinking through community water supply systems.
  4. Environment - water to keep the health of aquatic ecosystems.
  5. Cultural - water to meet aesthetic, recreational and cultural needs.
  6. Industry - water for industry and other uses not defined elsewhere.
  7. Rural stock and domestic - water for domestic and/or stock purposes.
  8. Mining activity - as defined in the Mining Management Act 2001or a related purpose.
  9. Petroleum activity - the exploration, extraction or processing of petroleum under an NT or Commonwealth act, or related purpose
  10. Aboriginal economic development - to provide water for Aboriginal economic development.

Beneficial uses and water quality objectives or guidelines can be declared under the Water Act 1992.

One or more beneficial use categories can be chosen for a water resource.

Beneficial uses may be accompanied by declared water quality objectives or guidelines based on scientific evidence or judgement.

These guidelines help protect, maintain and achieve water quality for the long term.

Water management

Beneficial use declarations assist in the development of water management plans. The plans may:

  • result in an aim to improve the current water conditions
  • achieve different water quality in parts of a catchment
  • or recognise that a water resource can't achieve a certain quality in the short term.

Beneficial use declarations are also used to inform waste discharge licences. They establish the objectives or guidelines for a water resource to protect against unwanted water quality impacts.

Read more about waste discharge licences and other environmental approvals and licences.

You can give input into the beneficial use declaration process as part of public consultation on the values and uses of a water resource that should be protected.

Beneficial uses have been declared in all of the following areas:

  • Alice Springs water control district
  • Coomalie Creek catchment surface water
  • Copperfield Creek surface water
  • Crater Lake
  • Daly Roper Beetaloo water control district
  • Darwin Harbour Region - high water mark
  • Darwin Harbour Region - natural water waterways
  • Darwin River Dam and catchment
  • Darwin rural water control district
  • Fog Bay area
  • Gove area marine waters
  • Great Artesian Basin water control district
  • Groote Eylandt area marine waters
  • Howley Creek surface water
  • Mary River groundwater
  • Mary River surface water
  • McArthur River catchment area
  • McKinlay River
  • Mount Bundy Creek
  • Ryan Creek
  • Settlement Creek tributaries
  • Ti Tree water control district
  • Vernon Islands area waterways
  • Western Davenport water control district.

Last updated: 30 April 2021

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