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 metering and monitoring of water take.

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.  

Commencing this year water corporations are required to annually report 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 2016-2017 reporting period.

Alleged compliance breaches reported in non-urban systems across Victoria

There were 1117 alleged Water Act 1989 breaches reported from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017, and 1090 cases were finalised during this period.  Four prosecutions for breaches of the Water Act were initiated in 2016-17, two of which were completed.

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 2016 to 30 June 2017, and Table 3 shows outcomes of Water Act 1989 prosecutions finalised in the reporting period.

Table 1: Alleged compliance breaches and relevant sections of the Water Act* finalised during 1 July 2016 – 30 June 2017 based on reporting developed under the National Framework for Compliance and Enforcement project.

Reason for finalisation

Number of cases

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

65 dismissed

Advisory letter

426 issued in total – comprising:

376, Section 33E, section 75 and section 289 (Taking water without authorisation and unauthorised works)

12, section 63 (Taking water without authorisation)

11, Section 75 and section 289 (Taking water without authorisation and unauthorised works)

11, Section 289 (Wrongful taking of water)

4, Section 288 and section 289

4, Section 63, section 75 and section 289

4, Section 75 (Unauthorised works)

2, Section 145 (Unauthorised connections)

2, Section 148 (construction of structure over works without consent)

Warning notices issued

607 issued in total – comprising:

561, Section 289 (Wrongful taking of water)

17, Section 63 (Taking water without authorisation)

15, Section 33, section 75 and section 289(Taking water without authorisation and inference with a waterway)

3, By-law 9 – Recreational Areas

3, Section 316 (work not undertaken by a licensed driller)

2, Section 63, section 75 and section 289 (taking water without authorisation and interference with a waterway)

2, Section 75 and section 289(taking water without authorisation and interference with a waterway)

1, Section 64AF (failure to comply with a condition of water-use licence)

1, Section 75(interference with a waterway)

1, Section 288(interference with an authority’s property)

1, Section 288 and section 289 (wrongful taking of water and interference with an authority’s property)

Section 151 notice of contravention issued

4 issued in total – comprising:

1, Section 148 (construction of structure of works without consent)

2, Section 75 (interference with a waterway)

1, Section 288 and Section 289 (wrongful taking of water and interference with an authority’s property)

Customers restricted

0

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

Table 2: Prosecutions commenced under the Water Act 1989 for 1 July 2016 – 30 June 2017.

Relevant section(s) of the act

Water sources

Date commenced

Sec 288 (1) and Sec 289 (1)(a)(i)

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

Regulated surface water

1 Dec 2016

Sec 288 (1) and sec 289 (1)(a)(i)

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

Regulated surface water

24 Oct 2016

Sec 288 (1) and sec 289 (1)(a)(i)

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

Regulated surface water

24 Oct 2016

Sec 75 (1)(a), (b)&(d); sec 289 (1)(a)(i) & (b)

Unauthorised works and wrongful taking of water

Unregulated surface water

10 April 2017

Table 3: Outcomes of completed prosecutions under the Water Act 1989 for 1 July 2014 – 30 June 2015.

Relevant section(s) of the act

Basin that offence occurred

Date commenced

Outcome

Sec 288 (1) and sec 289 (1)(a)(i)

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

Goulburn regulated (gravity)

01/12/2016

Fine $3000

Compensation $6043.50

Costs $769.90

Conviction

Sec 75 (1)(a), (b)&(d); sec 289 (1)(a)(i)&(b)

Unauthorised works and wrongful taking of water

Goulburn River

10/04/2017

Fine $2500

Compensation $4000

Costs $1289

No conviction