Water use compliance and enforcement
Rules, rights and obligations for rural water users in Victoria, and fines for not following these rules.
Water is a precious and limited resource. It is critical to our economy, environment and communities. This is why water needs to be managed fairly for all water users.
Victoria has zero tolerance for water theft. This supports equity of access to our limited water resources and protects those who comply with the Water Act 1989.
Lower Murray Water is responsible for making sure customers comply with the Water Act.
Our Compliance and Enforcement Strategy sets out the approach that we take to managing compliance and enforcement of our rural customers.
Compliance and enforcement are 2 separate concepts that work together to maintain the integrity of water markets and sustain public confidence in water management.
Compliance is a proactive regulatory activity to prevent breaches or offences from occurring in the first instance. There are a variety of tools to support compliance with Victorian water laws, including:
- hydrographic monitoring programs
- metering inspections
All rural customers have an allocation account (ABA). Your ABA records allocations made to your water share throughout the year. It keeps track of any water you have available to use or trade.
Under the Water Act, you must maintain a positive ABA balance. It is an offence to use water that is not in your ABA, and penalties apply for stealing water.
We proactively monitor your account balances through extensive metering and telemetry. We can see where even small volumes of water theft occur. If we identify unauthorised take, we will alert you to this fact. You must fix the issue quickly by buying or trading water into your ABA.
Enforcement is a reactive regulatory activity. This activity is triggered when breaches of the law are detected. Enforcement actions under the Water Act include:
- warning notices
- direction notices
- infringement notices
- orders for reinstatement
- suspending or cancelling an authorisation
Fines can be issued to water users with an irrigation connection, a stock and domestic connection and/or a take and use licence.
If you have received a notice and you ignore our requests, we have a range of enforcement tools to manage your non-compliance. We may:
- issue a fine – called a Penalty Infringement Notice (PIN)
- start a prosecution.
If you have a history of non-compliant behaviour, we may lock down your outlet, disconnect your rural service and – in extreme cases – revoke your licences.
In addition to any enforcement activity, you are liable to pay the fines and associated legal costs. Most importantly, if your ABA was in negative, you are still required to buy or trade water to return your ABA to a positive balance.
We can issue a PIN to water users who have committed a water infringement offence. All infringement notices are governed by the Infringements Act 2006.
You can be fined more than once if you commit multiple offences over a specific period. Fines can be issued within the 12 months after the day on which you committed the offence.
We have appointed Authorised Water Officers (AWOs) under Section 291A of the Water Act. These officers have the power to issue a PIN to anyone who has committed an offence (Section 295A of the Water Act).
We can fine customers with an irrigation connection, a domestic and stock connection and/or a take and use licence.
Under the Water Act and Water (Infringements) Regulations 2020, you can be fined for:
- taking water without a water share in a declared system* (up to 10ML)
- taking or using water without a take and use licence from a non-declared system (up to 10ML)
- wrongful take of water (up to 10ML), interfering with the flow of water in any waterway, aquifer or works without authorisation
- breaching conditions of a take and use licence
- breaching conditions of a works licence
- breaching a restriction or prohibition in a permanent water savings plan.
*A water system that has been declared in accordance with section 6A of the Water Act 1989. The Murray River is a declared system.
The Water (Infringements) Regulations 2020 set gradual penalties, which increase with the amount of water taken and the type of offence.
From 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2023, the maximum penalty per offence for an individual is $2,219 and for a body corporate is $11,095. Penalties are up to 5 times higher for body corporates than for individuals.
You receive a PIN by post or email. A PIN includes:
- information about the offence
- the amount owed
- how it can be paid
- the due date.
For information on how to pay, and to assess eligibility for payment arrangements, see Fines Victoria.
If you don’t pay by the due date, Fines Victoria will send reminder notices and you may have to pay extra costs. If you ignore reminders, the matter will become more serious and will escalate in accordance with Fines Victoria’s policy and procedures.
In addition to paying the fine, you must also bring your ABA balance back into compliance by purchasing or trading in additional water to your account.
Report water use breaches
We monitor all our service areas to make sure everyone is following the water use rules.
If you see someone deliberately misusing water or not following the rules, contact us.