Compliance and enforcement in Victoria

Victoria’s 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 monitoring of water use.

Most water users are responsible and abide by the conditions of their water license. Each year, however, a small number of users break the law when they take and use rural 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 a number of enforcement options available to them.  These include education, warning notices, orders for reinstatement where appropriate, or revocation of a licence or prosecution.  

Alleged compliance breaches reported in Victoria’s non-urban water systems

From 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016 there were 1077 alleged Water Act 1989 breaches reported in Victoria, and 1080 cases were finalised during this period.  

This is a substantial increase on the number of alleged breaches in 2014-2015 (382) and is a result of a cultural shift in the way overuse against an allocation bank account is reported and treated.  

Since 2015, Victoria has reported on any instance where an entitlement holder has taken more water than that to which they were entitled.  This means that instances of overuse are formally identified and reported as breaches.

Table 1 shows the outcomes of the finalisation of alleged breaches, excluding those breaches that were further investigated with the view to initiate prosecution.  As the table shows, in the majority of cases, the alleged breach resulted in water corporations issuing advisory letters or warning notices.    

Table 2 shows investigations commenced with a view to commence prosecution under the Water Act 1989 between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2016, while Table 3 shows outcomes of Water Act 1989 investigations finalised within the reporting period (including those commenced before 1 July 2015, if finalised in this reporting period).

Table 1: Alleged compliance breaches and relevant sections of the Water Act* finalised during 1 July 2015 – 30 June 2016 (based on National Framework reporting criteria).

Reason for finalisation

Number of cases

Discontinued – insufficient evidence, assessed as minimal impact or arbitrary in nature etc.

72 dismissed

Advisory letter issued

399 issued in total

Warning notices issued

676 issued in total – comprising:

513, Section 289 (Wrongful taking of water)

33, Section 63 (Taking water without authorisation)

14, Section 75 (Unauthorised works)

8, Section 288 (Interference with Authority’s property)

5, Sections 288 (Interference with Authority’s property) and 289 (Wrongful taking of water)

67, Section 33E (Offence to take water without authorisation) and section 289 (Taking water without authorisation)

32, Section 33E and section 289 (Taking water without authorisation) and section 75 (Unauthorised works)

1, Section 289 (Taking water without authorisation) and section 75 (Unauthorised works)

1, Sections 288 (Interference with Authority’s property) and 291

2, Section 145 (Control over connections)

Section 151 notice of contravention issued

5 issued in total – comprising:

1, Section 288 (Interference with Authority’s property) and Section 289 (Wrongful taking of water)

4, Section 75 (Unauthorised works)

Customer water use restricted

3 in total – comprising:

1, Section not reported

2, Section 289 (Wrongful taking of water)

Investigations with a view to prosecute that have commenced in the reporting period, indicate the repetitive nature of the type of offence that is considered to be significantly serious to warrant prosecution.

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

Table 2: Investigations commenced under the Water Act 1989 for 1 July 2015 – 30 June 2016.

Authorising section(s) of the act

 

Date commenced

Sections 288 and 289 Interference with Authority’s property and wrongful taking of water.

 

27/08/2015

Table 3: Outcomes of prosecutions under the Water Act 1989 for 1 July 2015 – 30 June 2016.

Authorising section(s) of the act as basis for investigation

Date commenced

Outcome of investigation

Sections 288 and 289 Interference with Authority’s property and wrongful taking of water.

27/08/2015

  • Fined $233
  • $300 to Charity
  • Good behaviour   bond

Sections 288 and 289 Interference with Authority’s property and wrongful taking of water.

22/03/2015

  • Fined $250
  • Costs $214.82
  • Court fees $117
  • No conviction

Sections 288 and 289 Interference with Authority’s property and wrongful taking of water.

26/05/2015

  • Costs $1000
  • No conviction