Water is a precious and limited resource, so it’s important that everyone has fair access to it. Find out your responsibilities under the conditions of your licence, and our approach to managing compliance.
Water theft affects everyone in your community: taking more than your licence entitlement means there’s less for everyone – and the environment. Effective and strong compliance ensures fair access for all water users, protecting those who do the right thing and encouraging community confidence in diversion licensing.
The Victorian Government is continuing its zero tolerance approach to water theft, introducing tougher penalties from 1 July 2020. Water corporations can now issue penalty infringement notices for unauthorised take and use of water and other offences, potentially resulting in fines and/or the suspension or cancellation of your licence.
Your rights and obligations
All diversion licence holders have a water entitlement which provides rights to take and use water throughout the year. Under the Water Act 1989, it’s illegal to take and use more water than your entitlement allows for, and penalties apply.
It’s your responsibility to comply with the conditions of your licence. Before you take and use water from a waterway or storage dam, you should make sure you:
- have the right authorisations – including licences to construct or operate works on a waterway
- check your meter reading and water usage against your licenced volume
- check if restrictions and/or bans apply to your waterway.
We also recommend you plan for your monthly and seasonal water needs and contact us early if you expect you’ll have difficulty meeting these, so we can discuss potential options of trading that may be available to you.
If you’re unsure of your responsibilities in relation to your entitlement, we can help – contact our Diversions Team on 131 722.
Our approach to managing compliance
Under the Water Act 1989, we are responsible for making sure people comply with the conditions of their licence. We do this through:
- Compliance – proactive activities to prevent breaches (like water theft), such as metering and data loggers to monitor water use, inspections, audits and reporting
- Enforcement – reactive activities when breaches are detected, including warning notices, penalty infringement notices, licence suspension or cancellation, and prosecution.
Each year we report our compliance and enforcement activities in our Annual Report (Appendix D).
Our approach to compliance and enforcement is risk-based and responsive, so our actions reflect the seriousness of the offence. We are committed to:
- an emphasis on education, community engagement, technology and monitoring programs, to encourage and assist with compliance
- a clear and logical escalation pathway in response to detected breaches
- working in good faith with all parties and using our enforcement powers only when needed.
This is guided by our:
- Healthy Waterways Strategy
- Streamflow Management Plans
- Waterways and Land Enforcement Policy, which aligns with state government guidelines
- Melbourne Water’s Code of Conduct.
Reporting water theft and non-compliance
If you see something, say something. You can report suspected water theft, or breaches of the Water Act 1989, by calling us on 131 722.
If you have been subjected to an enforcement decision that you believe is unfair, you can request a review or lodge a complaint about how your matter has been handled by:
- making a complaint to Melbourne Water
- making a complaint to the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria, an independent dispute resolution service
- commencing legal proceedings to challenge the decision.