Water Use Compliance and Enforcement (WUCE)

Zero tolerance on water theft

What compliance and enforcement means

Compliance and enforcement are two 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: actions are taken to prevent breaches or offences from occurring in the first instance. There are a variety of compliance tools to support compliance with Victorian water laws including education, hydrographic monitoring programs, metering inspections, audits, reporting and accounting.
  • Enforcement is a reactive regulatory activity: activity is triggered when breaches of the law are detected. Enforcement actions under the Victorian Water Act include warning notices, direction notices, orders for reinstatement where appropriate, suspension or cancellation of an authorisation, or prosecution.

Importance of water use compliance and enforcement  

It’s illegal to take and use more water than allowed under your entitlement.

Whenever a little more water is taken than is allowed, it can easily add up and there is limited water to go around.

Water theft affects everyone in your community and it is important that individual water users do not adversely impact other users or Victoria’s environmental values.

Individual water users should make sure they have the right authorisations before they take water from a dam, bore, stream, river, creek or irrigation channel.

A zero-tolerance to water theft provides equity of access to limited water resources and protects those who are doing the right thing. In Victoria, compliance and enforcement in the non-urban water sector is carried out by the Minister for Water and water corporations like GMW.

Water Act reforms to support strong compliance

From 1 July 2020 new regulations are in place that enable GMW and other water corporations to fine water users for water theft and other offences by issuing penalty infringement notices.

The Water (Infringements) Regulations 2020 mean water users can now be fined if they go over their authorised volumes by even a very small amount. Penalty infringement notices can be issued for amounts of water up to 10 megalitres.

GMW will use penalty infringement notices as part of its enforcement strategies to put an end to water theft. Given Victoria‘s extensive water metering, this means that accounts with low balances can be checked frequently and penalty infringement notices issued promptly.

With limited water to go around, water theft has the potential to significantly impact other water users who are doing the right thing.

The Regulations set graduated penalties which increase with the amount of water taken and the nature of the offence. Penalties are up to five times higher for body corporates than for individuals.

Tougher penalties include:

  • Your licence for taking water or constructing works can be suspended or cancelled if you do not comply with your licence conditions.
  • You can be fined or issued with a penalty infringement notices (PIN) for illegally taking and using water.
  • The maximum fine for intentional water theft and related offences under the Victorian Water Act has increased to $990,000 for companies and $198,000 for individuals.

GMW policy and procedures

GMW's Water Use Compliance Strategy (opens in a new window) is risk-based to make sure that resources are used efficiently, focussing more on areas where there are the greatest compliance risks.

Our Water Use Compliance Strategy explains how GMW manages compliance under the Victorian Water Act. 

Victoria has widespread and modern metering that helps monitor and manage compliance.

As of 30 September 2019, Victoria has approximately 48,035 non-urban meters, 51 per cent of which are telemetered.

At GMW we are continuing to invest in modern metering and telemetry to improve monitoring of groundwater and surface water use. For more information please refer to our Metering Action Plan.

Our approach also includes proactive measures and safeguards to prevent unauthorised take of water to protect other water users, the environment and ensure the integrity of the water market.

In 2018/19, there was a significant increase in reporting of both potential breaches and enforcement actions as a result of increased scrutiny of metering and system monitoring data.

Our priority for 2020/21 will be continuing to improve the monitoring and enforcement of unauthorised take of water.

Compliance and Enforcement fact sheets

Letting us know about misconduct

If you see something, say something. It is all connected and taking water that’s not yours, means less for everyone.

Report an alleged breach or offence by:

You can remain anonymous when submitting information, but please keep in mind that your decision for anonymity may limit our ability to conduct a complete investigation.

For more information refer to the How do I report an alleged offence? fact sheet above.

Further information and links

Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP) resources: