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.
Review internal governance arrangements for non-urban water management.
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:
- strengthening governance instruments
- 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.
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.
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.
Establish a network of water compliance practitioners to promote best practice and innovation in water compliance.
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.
The Collaboration protocol between Victoria and the MDBA is publicly available.
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).
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.
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.
Report annually on progress with the above implementation plan.
Submit individual water resource plans (WRPs) for Commonwealth accreditation in accordance with the agreed timeline published by the MDBA.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Page last updated: 08/09/23