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The Victorian Government has a zero-tolerance policy to water theft. Victoria has an effective compliance and enforcement system working against this crime.

The Water for Victoria water plan further strengthens and modernises the state’s compliance regime for fair water access. Changes have included increased penalties and providing authorities with more enforcement tools.

A review by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) in 2017 found a strong culture of compliance and modern metering in Victoria.

Metering with real time data

Victoria has the largest fleet of modern meters in Australia. 91% of groundwater and 83% of surface water take in northern Victoria metered. Meters with telemetry give accurate data to water users and authorities in real time. The meters show us where water is being extracted.

Victoria's monitoring ensures sustainable, fair and equitable sharing of groundwater too. We regularly check around 1,800 observation bores across Victoria. Some sites are now monitored with telemetry systems with a live data feed. This enables swift remedial actions if necessary. The live data builds confidence in our water management systems and water markets.

Read more about how Victoria manages water compliance.

Joint efforts to improve Basin-wide compliance

In 2017, major water theft allegations highlighted the importance of having effective systems.

All Basin states and the Australian Government have committed to a Basin Compliance Compact. The compact will improve the transparency and accountability of water management regimes. It will put in place more consistent compliance and enforcement practices. The compact was reached through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

Basin Compliance Compact

Victoria will work to improve transparency, maintain public confidence in the Basin Plan and continue to manage water resources with fairness.

The Compliance Compact also created an opportunity to review our existing systems and policies. Continuous improvement will form a central part of the Compliance Compact. A review of the Basin Compliance Compact was undertaken by the MDBA and Basin States and was published in May 2021.

The review highlighted that Victoria is leading the Basin jurisdictions. We have implemented all actions outlined in the Compact.

Victoria will work with Basin states and the MDBA on a strong compliance and enforcement approach through:

  • continued assurance and public reporting focused on outstanding commitments
  • development of Basin-wide meter thresholds
  • development of outcomes and performance reporting for water compliance.

Since 2018, Victoria has been implementing the actions in the Compact in accordance with COAG principles of best practice regulation. The majority of Victoria’s actions are now complete and compliance reports will be published annually.

Transparency and accountability - Progress on actions to July 2022

Review internal governance arrangements for non-urban water management.

Status: completed

Water Corporations in Victoria are responsible for administering water entitlements, including metering water use and managing compliance and enforcement.

There are several instruments and arrangements in place that already promote and support good compliance and enforcement practices. These include:

  • Statements of Obligations
  • Corporate plan guidelines and Letters of Expectations
  • Water Corporations compliance and enforcement strategies
  • guidelines and protocols
  • comprehensive board induction materials for incoming board directors.

Victoria has reviewed these governance instruments and arrangements to ensure that Victoria’s strong compliance culture is maintained. The review commenced in August 2018 and was completed in December 2018.

The review confirmed that Victoria has good governance arrangements in place, and a high level of expertise and capacity in Water Corporations to support a strong culture of compliance and enforcement.

While there are instruments and arrangements in place that support good compliance and enforcement practices, there are opportunities to strengthen these instruments and arrangements to ensure their optimum application.

The review highlighted 9 recommendations that focus on:

  1. strengthening governance instruments
  2. increase transparency of Victoria’s compliance and enforcement obligations.

The Water Corporations were consulted throughout the process and are generally supportive of the review’s findings and recommendations.

Publish reporting framework for identified significant water management decisions involving discretion and commence reporting in accordance with this framework.

Status: completed

Victoria has a comprehensive management framework to guide judgement or discretion, and numerous checks and balances to ensure accountability.

These checks include transparency measures such as publishing comprehensive annual water accounts, providing up-to-date market information, performance reporting by water corporations, and reporting to the MDBA on Basin Plan implementation. Information about water management decisions are readily and publicly available.

Victoria’s response to Action 1.2a focuses on improving accessibility and making this information easier to discover.

Read the Basin compliance compact action 1.2 (a) (PDF, 511.9 KB)

Publicly report on compliance and enforcement actions by location annually.

Status: completed

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

Victoria also reports annually on the non-urban water compliance and enforcement activities in Northern Victoria using a template provided by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to improve the consistency of reporting between the MDBA and Basin states.

From 2019–20 onwards, the annual report for Northern Victoria will be integrated with the state-wide annual report.

Scope out a proposal for a Basin-wide system to provide publicly accessible, real time advice on environmental water.

Led by the Federal Department of Agriculture and the MDBA.

Review joint governments’ governance arrangements in the Basin to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of current arrangements.

Status: completed

The Basin Officials Committee (BOC) has led a significant 18-month reform of the governance framework that underpins the delivery of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

With a renewed focus on strategic priorities and a restructure of the subcommittees, this has led to improved decision-making for BOC and the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council. The streamlining of committees has also seen improved collaboration, transparency and accountability.

Further information is available on the MDBA website.

Victoria will continue to maintain a public Water Register website that provides detailed information on entitlements, water availability and use and water trading.

Victoria also produces annual accounts, which provide comprehensive statements of entitlements and usage for surface and groundwater catchments in Victoria.

Status: completed

The Victorian Water Register and Water Accounts are publicly available.

Compliance and enforcement frameworks - Progress on actions to July 2021

Publish a revised compliance framework that addresses the requirements of recommendation 6 of the Murray-Darling Basin Compliance Review.

Also publish risk-based compliance strategy guidelines to support the consistent compliance strategies by rural water corporations, and publish compliance strategies in accordance with these compliance strategy guidelines.

Status: completed

A compliance framework was published in Non-urban water compliance and enforcement – review of framework and governance arrangements (PDF, 1.2 MB), see page 13 of report.

The department has guidelines for water corporations to establish effective compliance strategies. The Non-urban Water Compliance and Enforcement Guidelines for Water Compliance (PDF, 2.0 MB) set out 5 principles for maintaining strong compliance in Victoria.

The guidelines will also build greater consistency in how compliance and enforcement is carried out across Victorian water corporations. Water corporations are expected to adhere to the guidelines as stated in the Minister’s Statement of Obligations (PDF, 5.4 MB).

Establish a network of water compliance practitioners to promote best practice and innovation in water compliance.

Status: completed

In 2018, Victoria co-sponsored a proposal to establish a nation-wide Water Compliance Community of Practice (CoP) under the Australasian Environmental Law Enforcement and Regulators Network.

Representatives from Rural Water Corporations and the department attended the inaugural Water Compliance CoP meeting on 15 November 2018 and subsequent forums and continue to participate in teleconference meetings actively.

In 2019, the Department also established a Victoria Water Compliance CoP. The first meeting was held on 29 July 2019 with compliance management representatives from rural water corporations, who discussed:

  • metering policies
  • communication strategies
  • training for authorised water officers/field officers.

The CoP continues to meet frequently. Recent meetings have focused on implementing Victoria’s Zero Tolerance Approach to Unauthorised Take of Non-Urban Water and Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs).

In late 2020, a compliance communications working group, with compliance and communication representatives, was established to facilitate the implementation of Victoria’s Compliance Communications Plan (2020), followed by the formation of the Authorised Water Officer (AWO) Network, with operational officers, to progress PINs implementation and discuss the training of officers.

Develop protocols in relation to Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s Basin Plan compliance and enforcement actions with a view to ensuring effective, transparent and efficient outcomes on water theft.

Status: completed

The Collaboration protocol between Victoria and the MDBA is publicly available.

Victoria will continue to review the Victorian Water Act to:

(i) find opportunities to improve regulatory frameworks to meet best practice and support effective compliance and enforcement

(ii) make best efforts to seek legislative amendment, including penalties and sanctions, where appropriate.

Status: completed

On 15 Aug 2019, the Victorian Government passed the Water and Catchment Legislation Amendment Act 2019.

The Water and Catchment Legislation Amendment Act is significant for compliance because it introduces key amendments for tougher penalties and better enforcement powers that will discourage water theft. The amendments include:

  • Increasing the maximum fine for intentional water theft and related offences if they cause substantial harm (to $990,000 for companies and $198,000 for individuals)
  • Allowing for the suspension or cancellation of licences for taking water and works
  • Enabling the development of regulations for water corporations to issue penalty infringement notices (PINs) for less serious water offences.

The Department is currently working on the implementation of PINs, with water corporations and Fines Victoria, including the establishment of key messaging and associated training to issue PINs.

Victoria applies standard conditions for works licences that require entitlement holders to notify the water corporation within one business day if the meter ceases to function or operate poorly.

Status: completed

The Policies for Managing Works Licences (PDF, 473.5 KB) sets out the standard conditions for works licences that include requirements on entitlement holders to notify the water corporation within one business day if the meter ceases to function or operate poorly.

Victoria will continue to seek ways to improve its annual reporting on compliance activities to ensure improved transparency.

Status: ongoing

Victoria has processes in place to publish its compliance statistics every year in a timely manner. These processes include a template for water corporations to report on compliance statistics undertaken each quarter.

The template will be continuously reviewed each year.

For the 2021-22 reporting year, the template will include statistics on the number of penalty infringement notices issued.

Victoria will develop training manuals for compliance with the Victorian Water Act consistent with new compliance strategies.

Status: completed

Water corporations already have existing training manuals, such as training manuals for compliance and enforcement and field manuals for authorised water officers.

In 2020, the Department updated an existing Water Compliance and Enforcement Training Guide to support greater consistency in the training of officers across the state. The guide serves as a benchmark but also provides detailed guidance on how compliance and enforcement activities should be carried out. Water corporations are expected to adopt these approaches where relevant.

The Department is currently developing a compliance officer training and appointment framework, which will be finalised in August 2021. To ensure consistent implementation and training across the state, we will work through next steps with water corporations, via the AWO Network.

Victoria promotes compliance with the Victorian Water Act through public education programs and information.

Status: completed

Victorian water corporations have published a range of information and fact sheets for water users to better understand their rights and obligations. Check your local water corporation for more:

Victoria will continue to promote innovation in the water sector, which may include the adoption of new technologies where it is cost effective to do so.

Status: ongoing

Victoria is committed to promoting innovation in the water sector that will improve the availability and accessibility of information to all water users and the public.

Examples are:

  • Water Measurement Information System was updated on 31 December 2018 to provide real-time information on all telemetered surface water gauges and groundwater bores in Victoria
  • A new app – Water Market Watch – was released on 16 July 2019. This app allows the public to keep up-to-date on the northern Victoria’s water markets with instant access to the latest allocation announcements, spill determinations across the state, trade limits and market prices in northern Victoria.

Metering and measurement

Publish a metering policy that addresses meter accuracy (action 3.2), meter coverage (action 3.3), transmission of data (action 3.4), metering and telemetering of high risk take (action 3.5), and timeline for the installation of new metres and telemetry (action 3.6).

Status: completed

Victoria’s Non-urban Water Metering Policy (PDF, 817.4 KB) was revised in March 2020. This Policy replaces Victoria’s non-urban metering policy (2014) and state-wide implementation plan (2010). This Policy maintains Victoria’s leading approach to metering and guides water corporations with non-urban customers to install and maintain meters that provide accurate data that can be used as evidence in enforcement actions.

This Policy is consistent with the requirements of the Compact except for where costs have been determined to outweigh benefits – for example, meters will not be required for sites where water take is for domestic and stock use under section 8 of the Water Act 1989 (Vic).

Visit Victoria’s non-urban water metering page for more details.

This Policy was revised following a review of Victoria’s existing policies which commenced in October 2018. The review involved several stages to understand the implications of the requirements of the Compact:

  • a stock-take of the current metering assets in Victoria
  • a gap analysis of the existing metering policy and the Compact requirements
  • a regulatory impact assessment of complying with the Compact requirements
  • recommendations on changes to the existing metering policy and exemptions from the Compact requirements where the costs to implement outweigh the benefits.

The review was completed in June 2019, and a draft of the Policy was released for consultation with

  • water corporations
  • Victorian Environmental Water Holder
  • Victorian Farmers Federation
  • the Murray-Darling Basin Authority in September 2019.

Publish guidelines to support the development of implementation plans for metering by rural water corporations and publish implementation plans in accordance with the guidelines.

Status: completed

The Department has prepared a set of guidelines for water corporations (PDF, 667.5 KB) to update their metering action plans. The guidelines set out the key elements that water corporations should have in their metering action plans, including:

  • Business context relevant for metering requirements, future metering upgrades and their timing
  • Processes to ensure accurate meters
  • Meter data management
  • Meter fleet profile
  • Meter investment plan and finances.

Water corporations with rural customers have completed their metering action plans, which are available on each of their websites.

NSW and Queensland will publish their respective programs for improved measurement of floodplain harvesting and overland flow harvesting.

For NSW and Queensland only.

Publish a review of its water information requirements for compliance and enforcement and a water information improvement program for addressing priority issues.

Status: completed

Victoria completed a review of its hydrometric network (PDF, 1.7 MB) of surface water gauges, groundwater bores and climate (rainfall and evaporation) stations. The report of the completed review identifies a program of continuous improvement in surface water and groundwater monitoring.

Additional documents:

Conduct and publish a review every 5 years of their water information system.

To commence as per state programs

Victoria estimates water use, in the event of meter failure, as provided for in section 142(2) of the Victorian Water Act and section 3.7 of the Customer Service Code for Rural Water Corporations.

Status: completed

Victoria accounts for water use from small catchment dams and domestic and stock bores, uses best endeavours to improve these accounting methods over time, and periodically reviews the long-term risks to Victoria’s water resources through mechanisms such as long-term water resource assessments and sustainable water strategies.

Status: completed

The Victorian Water Accounts are publicly available.

Victoria operates its flow monitoring network in line with best practice, including minimisation of data loss.

Status: completed

Victoria will document water resource assessment tools and models to meet Basin Plan compliance obligations and will submit the relevant documentation to the Commonwealth as part of the existing water resource plan accreditation process

Status: completed

As required under Chapter 10, Part 4 of the Basin Plan, Victoria’s water resource assessment tools and models to meet Basin Plan compliance obligations have been incorporated into its water resource plans.

In the Wimmera-Mallee Water Resource Plan (PDF, 511.6 KB), a summary of the methods used to determine sustainable diversion limits and take is in Part 8, supported by further information in Appendix C. (PDF, 912.7 KB)

In Victoria’s North and Murray Water Resource Plan (PDF, 446.8 KB), a summary of the methods used to determine sustainable diversion limits and take is in Chapter 9, supported by further information in Appendix C  (PDF, 995.0 KB).

Finalising water resource plans - Progress on actions to September 2019

Submit individual water resource plans (WRPs) for Commonwealth accreditation in accordance with the agreed timeline published by the MDBA.

Status: completed

Victoria has 5 water resource plan areas – 3 surface water and 2groundwater. These are:

  • Victorian Murray water resource plan area (SW2)
  • Wimmera-Mallee (groundwater) water resource plan area (GW3)
  • Northern Victoria water resource plan area (SW3)
  • Goulburn–Murray water resource plan area (GW2)
  • Wimmera–Mallee (surface water) water resource plan area (SW4).

The Wimmera-Mallee Water Resource Plan (for SW4 and GW3) was submitted to MDBA for formal assessment on 22 February 2019.

Victoria's North and Murray Water Resource Plan (for Sw2, SW3 and GW2) was submitted to the MDBA for formal assessment on 30 April 2019.

Both water resource plans are on track to be accredited in 2019.

Where necessary, Basin state and the MDBA will increase resourcing for WRP development.

Status: completed

Victoria increased resourcing of its Water Resource Plan team to support the development of WRPs. The WRPs have been drafted and submitted to the MDBA for assessment and Commonwealth accreditation.

MDBA will publish quarterly reports on the progress of Basin States and the MDBA with WRP accreditation.

For MDBA only.

Protecting and managing environmental water - Progress on actions to September 2019

Implement measures to better protect environmental water to deliver Basin Plan environmental outcomes in accordance with agreed, publish implementation plans. These will be incorporated into Basin Plan WRPs where appropriate.

Status: completed

Pre-requisite policy measures (PPMs) are policy measures designed to maximise the beneficial outcomes of the water recovered for the environment under the Basin Plan.

Victoria’s PPMs were submitted to MDBA in June 2019.

MDBA has assessed that PPMs were in effect in Victoria at 30 June 2019 as required under the Basin Plan.

In unregulated systems of the northern Basin, the Queensland government will revise their Basin Plan WRPs to include more effective policies for the protection of environmental water to deliver Basin Plan environmental outcomes, particularly in the Lower Baloone.

For NSW only.

In unregulated systems of the northern Basin, including the Barwon-Darling River and relevant unregulated tributaries, the NSW government will trial interim and develop enduring solutions for the better protection and management of environmental water, including held environmental water when left in-stream, to deliver Basin Plan environmental outcomes.

Where appropriate, these policies will be implemented through amendments to NSW water sharing plans and incorporated into Basin Plan WRPs as part of the accreditation process.

For NSW only.

MDBA will publish and maintain a register of Basin state measures to better protect environment water.

For MDBA only.


Page last updated: 08/09/23