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G-MW cracking down on water theft

No leeway: G-MW says it takes a zero-tolerance approach to water theft. Photo by Megan Fisher

Goulburn-Murray Water (G-MW) is renewing its focus on the prevention, detection and enforcement of water theft.

G-MW’s water use compliance and enforcement co-ordinator Chris Dalton said G-MW had strengthened its compliance and enforcement efforts.

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,” Mr Dalton said.

“The detection of even small volumes of water theft has led to a swift compliance and enforcement response.

“We have increased inspections to detect water theft, including checking customers whose usage exceeded their entitlement in the previous irrigation season.”

Mr Dalton said this focus would increase in 2022 as G-MW introduced on-the-spot fines for water theft — this means that G-MW 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 G-MW customers are responsible and adhere to their licence conditions. Yet each year a small number of customers break the law through water theft.”

From July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, the maximum penalty for an individual is $2181 and $10,904 for a body corporate; if the matter proceeds to court, much larger fines apply.

Offences can be reported to G-MW on 1800 013 357, via email to compliance@gmwater.com.au or fill out an online form at www.gmwater.com.au

Questions regarding water entitlement can be addressed by the G-MW customer experience team, phone 1800 013 357.