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Water Terms Explained

What is Groundwater?

Groundwater happens when rain seeps into the soil and down into aquifers – nature’s way of storing water under the ground.

Groundwater can vary in yield and quality. It is usually contained in layers of sands, gravels, clays, limestones and other materials above bedrock.

Groundwater is part of the water cycle. It flows into and out of rivers, streams, estuaries and wetlands.



A layer of fractured rock, sand or limestone below the ground that is porous enough to hold groundwater and allow it to flow.



A layer of rock or clay that may hold some groundwater but is not porous enough to allow it to flow significantly.


What is surface water?

Surface water is created by rain that falls on river catchments.

It collects and flows into creeks, rivers, dams and estuaries.


Where else can water come from?

Other water sources include:

  • run-off from irrigation areas
  • recycled water
  • stormwater (run-off from urban areas)


Measuring water volumes

We measure water in litres. Larger volumes of water are described as megalitres (ML) which means one million litres, or gigalitres (GL) which is a thousand million litres.


Environmental water reserve

The Environmental Water Reserve is the legal term which describes the water set aside by law to meet environmental flows in creeks and rivers.



A catchment is an area of land where run-off from rainfall goes into one river system.



An upper limit for the amount of water that can be taken from a waterway, catchment, basin or groundwater area.


Regulated and unregulated systems

A regulated water system is one where the flow of the river is controlled through a large dam or weir.

An unregulated system has no large dams or weirs to regulate flow.


Bundled and Unbundled

All water entitlements in regulated systems in Victoria are unbundled. This means they are separated into three parts:

  • Water Shares (high and low reliability)
  • A Delivery Share
  • A Water Use Licence

Other diversion licences, groundwater licences and recycled water remain bundled – that is, they are not separated into different parts.


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WaterMatch - online trading

Watermatch is a free online service, designed to help people trade water.

Once you have registered, you can advertise to buy or sell water.

Depending on the water that you wish to trade, choose from the Groundwater, Surface Water (rivers and creeks) and Irrigation District forum.

Select a new topic to create your ad. Your ad can be to buy or sell water, and must describe the source of your water, quantity of water you want to buy or sell, how long you want to trade for and your contact details. If you are happy to put a buying or selling price, this can be included here too.

If you want to respond to an ad, you can use the email link or contact the advertiser direct.

It is an online trading forum, and can also be used by people who are not on the internet, with help from our staff.

Watermatch allows you to register your interest in either buying or selling water in southern Victoria.

  • the Macalister, Werribee and Bacchus Marsh Irrigation District
  • Groundwater systems in southern Victoria
  • Rivers and creek systems in southern Victoria (other than those managed by Melbourne Water around the Port Phillip region).

Who can use it?
Anyone can use watermatch. You may be an existing licence holder who wants to sell water, or buy more water.

You may not currently have a licence, but you want to buy water in the region.

How does it work?

  • click here to enter Watermatch
  • register as a user (a very simple process)
  • go to the system or district you are interested in and check current entries
  • add in any entry for any water you want to sell or buy

What information should I include in my ad?

  • If you are wanting to buy or sell
  • your name
  • phone number
  • name of river, creek, groundwater management area or irrigation district
  • how much water is to be traded
  • If the trade is temporary or permanent
  • term of the trade (Maximum term is 5 years)

Things you need to know
We are always looking for ways to improve our customer service. If you would like to provide feedack or suggested improvements please click here.

it's important to note that Southern Rural Water is not acting, and will not act, as a water broker.

We cannot advise you on price of water or match you individually with a buyer/seller.

Buyers and sellers still need to go through our normal application process.

Trading applications must be submitted to Southern Rural Water and approval granted before water is taken. A water transfer application form can be downloaded from our application page.

If you want to trade upstream, please speak with one of our Assessment Officers prior to submitting an application.

To check if a buyer or seller can trade with you, call us on 1300 139 510 and ask to speak to an Assessment Officer.

Not a water broker

It's important to note that Southern Rural Water is not acting, and will not act, as a water broker.

We cannot advise you on price of water or match you individually with a buyer/seller.

Buyers and sellers still need to go through our normal application process.

Click here to download our Fact Sheet