Non-urban water compliance and enforcement in Victoria

Water corporations that manage water resources in non-urban areas play a key role in securing the rights of all water users as well as safeguarding the State’s water resources. This role is supported by the ongoing metering and monitoring of water take.

Most water users are responsible and abide by the conditions of their water licence. Each year, however, a small number of users break the law when they take and use water from an aquifer, dam, stream, river, creek or irrigation channel.

They may take water without an entitlement or licence, they may build an illegal bore or dam, or they might interfere with a water meter. Sometimes these offences are deliberate, and sometimes they happen because people do not know the law.

Victoria’s water corporations have several enforcement options available to them.  These include education, warning notices, orders for reinstatement where appropriate, or revocation of a licence or prosecution.  

Since 2014, water corporations have reported annually on their compliance and enforcement activities in accordance with clause 7.3A of their Statement of Obligations.  The following state-wide statistics have been compiled for the 2017-18 water year.

Alleged compliance breaches reported in non-urban systems across Victoria

There were 1,625 alleged Water Act 1989 breaches reported from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, and 1,579 cases were finalised during this period.  14 prosecutions for breaches of the Water Act 1989 were initiated in 2017-18, and 10 prosecutions were finalised during this period.

The increase in alleged breaches reported (from 1,117 in 2016-17) is due to a combination of factors including increased capacity of water corporations to detect breaches and resolve to take enforcement actions targeting overuse against an allocation bank account (unauthorised use), and strong demand for water in regulated surface water markets combined with dry conditions. In most cases, the amount of unauthorised use is small and dealt with through advisory or warning letters.

Table 1 shows the reasons for finalisation of reported breaches, excluding those breaches prosecuted. Table 2 shows Water Act 1989 prosecutions commenced between 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, and Table 3 shows the outcomes of Water Act 1989 of finalised prosecutions.

Table 1: Alleged compliance breaches finalised from 1 July 2017 - 30 June 2018, excluding breaches prosecuted.

Reason for Finalisation

Number of cases

Not proceeded with – not enough evidence, assessed as minimal impact or arbitrary in nature etc.

95

Advisory letter

Total

786

Comprising:

Section 33E and Section 289

Taking water without authorisation and wrongful take of water

564

Section 63 and Section 75

Taking water without authorisation and unauthorised works

7

Section 64AF and Section 289

Failure to comply with water-use licence conditions, interference with waterway and wrongful take of water

201

Section 75

Unauthorised works

3

Section 75 and Section 289

Unauthorised works and interference with waterways

1

Section 289

Interference with waterways

10

Warning notices issued

Total

740

Comprising:

  

Section 33E and Section 289

Taking water without authorisation and wrongful take of water

63

Section 63 and Section 289

Taking water without authorisation and wrongful take of water

2

Section 63 and Section 75

Taking water without authorisation and unauthorised works

5

Section 63, Section 75 and Section 289

Taking water without authorisation, unauthorised works and wrongful take of water

42

Section 64AF, Section 288 and Section 289

Failure to comply with water-use licence conditions, interference with waterway and wrongful take of water

620

Section 75 and Section 289

Unauthorised works and wrongful take of water

1

Section 288

Interference with waterways

2

Section 288 and Section 289

Interference with waterways and wrongful take of water

1

Section 289

Wrongful take of water

3

Section 292

Obstructing officers

1

Section 151 notice of contravention issued

Total

12

Comprising:

  

Section 63

Taking water without authorisation

8

Section 75 and Section 288

Unauthorised works and interference with waterways

1

Section 288

Interference with waterways

2

Houseboat Regulations (Reg 4)

1

Referred for enforcement actions

10

Customers restricted

0

* Summaries of sections of the Water Act are indicative only.  See the Water Act 1989 for full description.

** Total number of cases reported in Table 1 is higher than the total number of alleged breaches received as a single case of unauthorised use of water may be issued with an advisory letter, warning notice, and/or statutory notice.

Table 2: Prosecutions commenced under the Water Act 1989 for 1 July 2017 – 30 June 2018.

Relevant section(s) of the act

Water sources

Date commenced

Section 33E and Section 289

Taking water without authorisation and wrongful take of water

Regulated surface water

28 Sep 17

Section 33E and Section 289

Taking water without authorisation and wrongful take of water

Regulated surface water

20 Nov 17

Section 33E and Section 289

Taking water without authorisation and wrongful take of water

Regulated surface water

20 Nov 17

Section 33E and Section 289

Taking water without authorisation and wrongful take of water

Regulated surface water

07 May 18

Section 33E and Section 289

Taking water without authorisation and wrongful take of water

Regulated surface water

29 May 18

Section 75 and Section 289

Unauthorised works and wrongful take of water

Regulated surface water

26 Jul 17

Section 288 and Section 289

Interference with waterways and wrongful take of water

Regulated surface water

16 Nov 17

Section 288 and Section 289

Interference with waterways and wrongful take of water

Regulated surface water

30 May 18

Section 288 and Section 289

Interference with waterways and wrongful take of water

Regulated surface water

24 Aug 17

Section 288 and Section 289

Interference with waterways and wrongful take of water

Regulated surface water

29 Aug 17

Section 288 and Section 289

Interference with waterways and wrongful take of water

Regulated surface water

28 Nov 17

Section 288 and Section 289

Interference with waterways and wrongful take of water

Regulated Surface water

21 Feb 18

Section 288 and Section 289

Interference with waterways and wrongful take of water

Regulated surface water

04 May 18

Section 288 and Section 289

Interference with waterways and wrongful take of water

Regulated surface water

04 Apr 18

Table 3: Outcomes of completed prosecutions under the Water Act 1989 for 1 July 2017 – 30 June 2018.

Relevant section(s) of the act

Basin that offence occurred

Date commenced

Outcome

Section 33E and Section 289

Taking water without authorisation and wrongful take of water

Goulburn River; Central Goulburn Irrigation Area

20 Nov 17

Withdrawn

Section 33E and Section 289

Taking water without authorisation and wrongful take of water

Goulburn River; Central Goulburn Irrigation Area

20 Nov 17

1. 6 month bond
2. Court costs
3. No conviction

Section 33E and Section 289

Taking water without authorisation and wrongful take of water

River Murray

07 May 18

1. 3 month bond
2. No conviction

Section 33E and Section 289

Taking water without authorisation and wrongful take of water

River Murray; Torrumbarry Irrigation Area

28 Sep 17

1. 12 month bond
2. Compensation $1,926
3. No conviction

Section 288

Interference with waterways

Rosedale GMA

04 Jan 17

1. Fine $2,500
2. Costs $3,279
3. No conviction

Section 288 and Section 289

Interference with waterways and wrongful take of water

Goulburn River; Central Goulburn Irrigation Area

26 Oct 16

1. Fine $15,000
2. Compensation $1,250
3. Costs $1,029
4. Conviction

Section 288 and Section 289

Interference with waterways and wrongful take of water

Goulburn River; Central Goulburn Irrigation Area

26 Oct 16

1. Fine $3,000
2. Compensation $1,080
3. Costs $1,029
4. No conviction

Section 288 and Section 289

Interference with waterways and wrongful take of water

Goulburn River; Loddon Valley Irrigation Area

16 Nov 17

1. Fine $3,000
2. Costs $2,000
3. No conviction

Section 288 and Section 289

Interference with waterways and wrongful take of water

Murray Darling Rural (Pipeline)

13 Jan 17

1. Fine $1500

2. Costs $1345

3. Conviction

Section 288 and Section 289

Interference with waterways and wrongful take of water

Murray Darling Rural (Pipeline)

21 Mar 17

Insufficient evidence

Page last updated: 01/10/2018