Victoria has set clear targets for unauthorised take

The Pearson review in 2020 recommended that to reduce the incidence of unauthorised take there is scope for a more rigorous and timely follow up of detected cases of unauthorised take. To action this recommendation, the Minister for Water set performance targets for unauthorised take for 2020-21:

  • no more than 1% of volume of total water taken is above authorisation, and
  • no more than 3% of accounts are to be in negative at any time.

Performance targets at 30 June 2021

  • Unauthorised take represented 0.1% of all total water taken under entitlements recorded in the Victorian Water Register.
  • Only 2.4% of allocation accounts had a negative balance.

Delivering risk-based and timely compliance and enforcement

To implement zero tolerance, water corporations triage all cases of possible authorised take. The enforcement response is resolute and assesses the risk or harm to the water resource and behaviour and compliance attitude of the offender (offender culpability) see Figure 2.

A graphic demonstrating the increased risk and culpability for offenders and some of the consequences

Figure 2: Victoria's non-urban water sector enforcement response

Compliance and enforcement activities 2020-2021

  • Water corporations reported they detected 1,193 potential breaches between 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021.
  • 1,376 enforcement actions were taken between 1 July 2020 and 30 June 2021, including 122 statutory notices, 6 restrictions of water supply of high-risk offences and 26 prosecutions finalised.
  • Victoria is the most active enforcer in the Basin – see Figure 1 of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s Compliance Compact Review.

Note statistics are current as of 30 June 2021.

Victorian water corporations were early adopters of non-urban water metering and are national leaders in telemetry and automated control systems. This means that monitoring and auditing programs are robust.

Metering results

In 2020-21, 95% of water taken via customer service points was metered, representing 68,000 meters installed across Victoria.

Water meters play a vital role in enabling compliance with the Water Act 1989 as they allow water users and water corporations to accurately measure how much water is taken and water corporations to account for the distribution and use of water.


This year 70% of customers’ take was telemetered which means water corporations received data electronically at a close to real time frequency. Approximately 30,500 of Victoria’s meters have telemetry.

Victoria’s non-urban water metering policy

In 2021-22, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and water corporations will continue to implement actions from Victoria’s non-urban water metering policy to:

  • Encourage comprehensive metering of non-urban water extraction in a way that is consistent with risks to water resources.
  • Provide for water take to be measured accurately and reliably.
  • Ensure the benefits of water measurement outweigh the costs.

More information

  • See the 2021 progress report for more information on the state-wide progress of implementing Victoria’s non-urban water metering policy.
  • See updated water corporation’s Metering Action Plans for more information on how each water corporation meets the requirements in Victoria’s non-urban water metering policy.

Learning from others to target risks across the state

Victoria’s six rural water corporations work together so that risks are targeted consistently in our priority areas.

During 2020-2021, we reinvigorated our Victorian Water Compliance Community of Practice and three working groups: Compliance Communications; Authorised Water Officers; and Non-Urban Metering.

Each group connects policy and communication representatives from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning with water corporations’ compliance managers, operational and communication staff.

Meeting every 6-8 weeks, the working groups focussed in 2020-21 on consistent communications, implementation of penalty infringement notices, good practice approaches to enforcement and training of authorised water officers.

DELWP continues to represent Victoria and engage with other states through the Murray-Darling Basin Compliance Community of Practice and works closely with water corporations to meet the expectations of the newly established Office of the Inspector General of Water Compliance.

Our priorities for 2021/22

  • Investing in modern meters and telemetry where benefits outweigh costs.
  • Working to connect with our community by:
  • Educating all water users and the broader water community on our zero tolerance approach to unauthorised take and ensuring water users understand their responsibilities under the Water Act 1989 and what penalties apply.
  • Keeping information relevant and up to date for water users.
  • Ensuring consistent, timely and resolute enforcement action is taken against the small number of non-compliant water users.
  • Reviewing our risks and ensure our approach targets the highest risk users and repeat offenders.
  • Begin issuing Penalty Infringement Notices to address residual behavioural issues and further drive down unauthorised take.
  • Implementing a State-wide Authorised Water Officer Training and Capability Framework to ensure consistent training of water corporation officers, including issuing of new penalty infringement notices.
  • Continuous improvement of monitoring and reporting, so that our work is intelligence-led and informed by evidence.

Previous: Non-Urban Water Compliance in Victoria 2020-21

Page last updated: 19/05/23