Victoria continues to lead the way in water compliance and management.

In 2020-21, water corporations maintained high compliance and enforcement activity as they continue to invest in installing new meters, telemetry on meters and database management systems that enable better monitoring of water take, greater scrutiny of potential breaches, and more comprehensive compliance reporting.

Unauthorised take reduced significantly over the peak irrigation season and we continue to see year-on-year improvements. As of 30 June, state-wide rates of water theft were less than one per cent of the rural water volume taken, meeting the performance target.

Maintaining Victoria’s zero tolerance approach to water theft

Continuing to improve our system for strong compliance and confidence in markets

In a June 2020 report (PDF, 473.2 KB), Mr Des Pearson, Victoria’s former Auditor-General found that Victoria has a robust compliance and enforcement frameworks in place to deliver the Government’s zero tolerance approach to unauthorised take.

Strengthening compliance frameworks with robust legislation and policy

Victoria’s takes a zero-tolerance approach to water theft.

Victoria’s approach to compliance (Figure 1) uses proactive measures to encourage voluntary compliance. Where voluntary compliance is not forthcoming, enforcement actions are applied resolutely and consistently.

Figure 1. Victoria's non-urban water compliance pyramid.

Strengthening our solid legislative framework

Over the past two years we strengthened have our framework. In particular:

  • Legislation that came into effect October 2019, increased the maximum fine for intentional water theft to $990,000 for companies and $198,000 for individuals. It also enabled new regulations that allow water corporations to fine users for water theft and other offences by issuing penalty infringement notices, even for small amounts.
  • New legislation to bolster enforcement – the Water and Catchment Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 passed the Victorian Parliament in October 2021. The legislation strengthens deterrents to water theft including allowing water to be deducted from those who use more than their allocation and placing more responsibility on directors of corporations who use water to follow the rules.

Policy frameworks provide a clear approach to effective water regulation

Water management systems support compliance

  • Victoria has an online Water Register - a public register of all water-related entitlements in Victoria. It has been designed and built to record water entitlements with integrity and provide crucial information for managing Victoria’s water resources.
  • Victoria has robust water information systems. In June 2019, we reviewed our hydrometric network of surface water gauges, groundwater bores and climate (rainfall and evaporation) stations. All actions are complete and will improve the availability and quality of water information from surface water and groundwater resources. You can read our most recent progress report:

Victoria leads compliance and metering in the Murray-Darling Basin

In 2020-21 we delivered on all our commitments under the Murray-Darling Compliance Compact and continue to report annually on key statistics and metering.

In 2020-21 95% of water taken via customer service points was metered and 70% was telemetered.

See the Water Compliance Report 2020-21 and the Non-urban water metering in Northern Victoria annual implementation report 2021. Accessible version (DOCX, 2.5 MB)

Proactive and targeted communication and education

Water corporations and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning support water users to voluntarily comply with their entitlements, licence conditions and obligations under the Victorian Water Act 1989. A proactive, coordinated approach to engaging with the public about water compliance is the foundation of Victoria’s zero tolerance approach.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and the non-urban water corporations – Goulburn Murray Water, Lower Murray Water, Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water, Coliban, Southern Rural Water and Melbourne Water – create and apply shared resources to prevent breaches and promote high levels of voluntary compliance consistently across the State.

Victorian water users know taking water without allocation is water theft

Zero tolerance on water theft ad image urging irrigators to keep their balance positive to avoid penalties

Water corporations have had strong focus on proactive messaging this year, by:

Next: 2020-21 Compliance and Enforcement Report Card

Page last updated: 05/11/21