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
- The Non-Urban Water Compliance and Enforcement Guidelines for Water Corporations (PDF, 2.0 MB), sets out requirements for water corporations and their compliance and enforcement strategies, policies, and annual work plans.
- The Victorian Non-Urban Water Metering Policy (PDF, 813.5 KB) ensures we are compliant with the National Framework for Non-Urban Water Metering. Water Corporations Metering Action Plans demonstrate how they are implementing these requirements to meet key targets outlined in the Policy.
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.
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
Water corporations have had strong focus on proactive messaging this year, by:
- Incorporating our ‘zero tolerance on water theft’ messages into water user bills, newsletters, websites, factsheets, and warning letters.
- Publishing a compliance and enforcement factsheet series, covering:
- Delivering consistent messaging through newsletters, for instance
- Developing an online ‘report a breach’ form for the Goulburn-Murray Water community.
- Notifying water waters at risk of non-compliance (near exceedance of allocation) via SMS messages.
- Updating compliance information on the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and water corporations’ websites.
- Adapting to the COVID-19 environment as site visits and face-to-face engagement activities were cancelled or delayed. Water Corporations continue to educate and engage with customers through phone-calls, email, online newsletters, virtual webinars, and social media.
Page last updated: 05/11/21