We are committed to continuing to improve the way we manage water to ensure fair and equitable access to water.


Victoria has invested heavily in metering all significant non-urban licensed water use such as irrigation over the past two decades. Victoria’s extensive metering and measurement systems are targeted to areas where water use is highest, and provide the information needed to understand and manage the risks of unauthorised taking of water.

Meters are owned and maintained by government-owned water corporations, who read meters regularly via telemetry or on the spot to check no one is using more water than their entitlements allow.

Many irrigation systems have been modernised with automated control systems providing water corporations accurate information about water deliveries and losses, and preventing people from ordering more water than they are authorised to take. Irrigation modernisation has resulted in thousands of accurate new meters being installed.

Compliance and enforcement

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) in 2017 reviewed water compliance in the Murray-Darling Basin and found a culture of compliance and modern metering in Victoria. The MDBA’s finding reflects the Victorian Government’s record of striving to continually improve our compliance systems. 

The Water Act 1989 is Victoria’s primary piece of water legislation and provides the legal framework for water management and use in Victoria. The Minister for Water, 19 state-owned water corporations and 10 catchment management authorities are responsible for managing compliance with the Water Act 1989.

The Water Act 1989 provides compliance officers with a range of powers to enter private land to investigate and collect evidence if they suspect an offence has been committed, or stop someone from accessing water that they are not authorised to take.

Water corporations can usually achieve compliance with education, information, and advice, through to site visits, advisory letters or warning notices. An alleged serious offence or a repeat offender may warrant prosecution which can lead to fines or imprisonment.

Victorian safeguards against large-scale misappropriation of water include:

  • extensive metering and measurement systems that are targeted to areas where water use is highest, and provide the information needed to understand and manage the risks of unauthorised taking of water;
  • overarching bulk entitlements in most surface water systems, with compliance obligations for water corporations;
  • modernised irrigation systems with automated control systems that provide water corporations with accurate information about water deliveries and losses, and prevent people from ordering more water than they are authorised to take;
  • Australia’s leading water register that tracks taking of water against authorisations to take, verifies that trades comply with rules, and provides for robust water accounting; and
  • the publication of information including comprehensive water accounts, market information and compliance statistics.

Interim Basin Compliance Compact

All Basin states and the Australian Government have committed to a Basin Compliance Compact, which is an interim document until endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments. The Basin Compliance Compact aims to improve the transparency and accountability of water management and put more consistent compliance and enforcement into action across the Basin. In Victoria some actions will be implemented in other catchments to ensure a consistent state-wide approach.

Victoria is now implementing the Basin Compliance Compact and will report on actions as they are completed.

Action 1.2a: Each Basin State will publish a reporting framework for identified significant water management decisions involving discretion (e.g. the granting of exemptions to water take rules and retrospective approvals for unlicensed illegal works) and commence reporting in accordance with this framework. Decisions made should be published in an easy to access, searchable format (e.g. on a register) and in a timely manner as per timeframes in reporting frameworks.

Download Compact action 1.2a (PDF, 508.0 KB)

Action 1.2c: Publicly report on compliance and enforcement actions by location including the timeliness with which allegations are addressed.

Victoria reports annually on state-wide non-urban water compliance and enforcement activities.

The report  (PDF, 699.7 KB) was completed using a template provided by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to improve consistency of reporting between the MDBA and Basin states.

Page last updated: 01/10/2018