Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) and Lower Murray Water (LMW) are renewing their focus on the prevention, detection and enforcement of water theft.
GMW’s Water Use Compliance and Enforcement coordinator Chris Dalton said GMW has strengthened compliance and enforcement.
This has resulted in 25 successful water theft prosecutions in 2020/21, while the number of customers who took water without authorisation – and the amount of water taken from 2019/20 to 2020/21 – has halved.
“We have also been educating customers on managing their entitlements and proactively monitoring customer account balances. The detection of even small volumes of water theft has led to a swift compliance and enforcement response,” Mr Dalton said.
“We have increased inspections to detect water theft, including checking customers whose usage exceeded their entitlement in the previous irrigation season.”
Meanwhile, LMW’s renewed focus has resulted in a significant reduction of unauthorised take with the volume reducing by more than 87 per cent and the number of customers who took water without authorisation reducing by more than 65 per cent in the past two years.
LMW Managing Director, Anthony Couroupis said the compliance and enforcement measures taken, alongside the continuing education of customers, is vital to ensure equity for all water users.
“LMW has been implementing clear compliance and enforcement measures as well as closely monitoring all accounts and alerting customers when their account balance is heading towards being negative. This proactive monitoring means we can act quickly where there is water theft – also known as metered use without allocation. Our customers are telling us they want those doing the wrong thing to be held accountable, they want a fair system and our renewed compliance and enforcements efforts provide that,” he said.
Mr Dalton and Mr Couroupis said this focus would increase in 2022 as GMW and LMW introduced on-the-spot fines for water theft – this means that GMW and LMW can issue fines (known as Penalty Infringement Notes or PINs) without having to go to court.
The PIN system will be in addition to being able to prosecute water theft in court.
A PIN can be issued to an individual or body corporate who has committed a water infringement offence. Under the Water Act 1989 and Water (Infringements) Regulations 2020, a PIN can be issued for:
- taking water without a water share in a declared system
- taking or using water without a take and use licence from a non-declared system
- wrongful take of water, interfering with flow of water in any waterway, aquifer or works without any authorisation
- breaching conditions of a take and use licence; and
- breaching conditions of a works licence.
“Water is a precious but limited resource,” Mr Dalton said.
“The vast majority of GMW customers are responsible and adhere to their licence conditions. Yet each year, a small number of customers break the law through water theft.”
“GMW is committed to zero-tolerance on water theft to support community confidence that the same rules apply to all GMW customers.”
“We know most of our customers do the right thing and we have clear and transparent measures to proactively manage those who don’t. LMW is also committed to zero-tolerance on water theft – to protect all water users and the environment,” Mr Couroupis said.
From July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, the maximum penalty for an individual is $2,181 and $10,904 for a body corporate and if the matter proceeds to court, much larger fines apply.
To report an alleged offence or breach of the Water Act 1989, you can phone GMW on 1800 013 357, email email@example.com or fill out an online form at www.gmwater.com.au/compliance or phone LMW on 03 5051 3400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
More information on PINs and water use compliance can be found at www.gmwater.com.au/compliance or www.lmw.vic.gov.au/compliance
If you have any questions on managing your water entitlement, please call the GMW Customer Experience Team on 1800 013 357 or the LMW Customer Service Team on 1800 808 830.