1 March 2019
Media Release - #2019037, 2019

Register of Foreign Ownership of Water Report

The Government has today released the first report of the Register of Foreign Ownership of Water Entitlements, delivering on our commitment to increase transparency around holdings of Australia’s water assets.

The first report shows the proportion of total water entitlements that have a level of foreign ownership is 10.4 per cent. This is based on a comparison of data held on the Register of Foreign Ownership Water Entitlements and the Bureau of Meteorology’s assessment of total Australian water entitlements on issue.

The Water Register reports on aggregate water entitlements with a level of foreign ownership of 20 per cent and above.

The United States of America and China are Australia’s largest sources of foreign investment in water entitlements, each holding approximately 1.9 per cent of total water entitlement on issue. The United Kingdom is the next largest source of foreign investment, holding approximately 1.1 per cent of total water entitlement on issue.

Of the 10.4 per cent of water entitlement that is foreign owned, the greatest usages are for agriculture, accounting for 66.5 per cent, and mining at 26.3 per cent.

The Murray-Darling Basin holds just over half of all water entitlements on issue in Australia. Foreign ownership of water entitlements within the Murray-Darling Basin is 9.4 per cent, slightly below the level of foreign ownership of entitlements at a national level.

Foreign investment plays an important role in the growth and productivity of our regional communities and the Government continues to welcome foreign investment where it will support our national interest.

The Government’s Water Register complements the Agricultural Land Register. Together these registers provide the public with greater transparency about foreign investment levels and trends in the water market and agricultural sectors.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) administers the Water Register. All foreign investors with an interest in registrable water entitlements and contractual water rights are required to register their interest with the ATO.  This is supplemented by the ATO through different sources of data, such as land titles, immigration and other third party sources, to identify those foreign investors who may not have correctly reported their water entitlements on the Water Register.

The report collates data from the Water Register as at 30 June 2018 and is available on the Foreign Investment Review Board website.