G-MW prosecutes water thieves

December 05, 2017

G-MW has prosecuted two cases of water theft and has more cases under investigation which are likely to go to court.

G-MW has prosecuted two cases of water theft and has more cases under investigation which are likely to go to court.

Compliance in the water industry has come under examination following last week’s report which looked at cases of illegal water use across the Murray-Darling Basin.

In 2016-17, G-MW dealt with 456 cases of alleged offences under the Water Act 1989. The vast majority involved unintended overuse of relatively small amounts of water. These figures were comparable to past years; 462 and 356 alleged offences in the two preceding financial years, respectively.

G-MW said it had more than 12350 irrigation customers in 2016-17.

‘‘Overall, 97 per cent of these irrigators were compliant and operated within their entitlement,’’ the authority said.

‘‘The amount of water overused is very small in volume, and the vast majority of these overuse issues were resolved with education.’’

G-MW managing director Pat Lennon said with the automated and closely controlled water delivery systems under modernisation, the corporation was able to detect any unauthorised use fairly quickly.

He said there was also a supportive culture among irrigators who realised that any other farmer taking water without permission was taking it off them.

He said the vast majority of overuse anomalies were rectified by educating the user on their water entitlement (or lack of entitlement).

These users were primarily unmetered, lifestyle properties where a deemed domestic and stock water allowance was in place.

‘‘We can see meters moving in real time, so we can identify any anomalies or issues,’’ Mr Lennon said.

‘‘The business has overall strong commitment to compliance, as was acknowledged in the independent report to the MDBA.’’

Mr Lennon there was room for improvement in enforcing compliance, as the report identified, and he anticipated the government might seek suggestions from G-MW about how this could be done.

Any change in enforcement regulations or penalties was a matter for the government, Mr Lennon said.

G-MW said a small number of water overuse cases required warning notices.

Should overuse persist, offenders are referred for prosecution, where they are liable for fines, court costs and payment of compensation.

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