Water is a vital resource we all need to live, work and play. This is why water needs to be managed fairly for all water users.

Southern Rural Water is responsible for water licencing and regulation in southern Victoria. We work with farmers, businesses, individuals, and the community to help them with water licences, understanding the conditions of their licence, and complying with the regulations.

It’s illegal to take and use more water than allowed under your entitlement or to undertake works without appropriate approval.

The Victorian Government and Southern Rural Water has a zero-tolerance approach to water theft.

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Water theft, also known as unauthorised take, is an offence under the Water Act 1989 and can attract fines and court-based enforcement action.

Our approach to compliance and enforcement is risk-based and responsive. Our Compliance and Enforcement Strategic Plan sets out how we will ensure water users comply with their licence terms and how we will enforce non-compliance in southern Victoria.

Over the last two years, the government has strengthened its compliance framework with robust legislation and policy to deter non-compliance. This includes amendments to the Infringements Act 2006, development of the Water (Infringements) Regulations 2020 and the Water and Catchment Legislation Amendment Act 2021.

Under new regulations, we can use Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) to issue on-the-spot fines or enforce negative carryover for water users who go over their water entitlement.

We know in most cases unauthorised take is unintentional and we’ll work with you to resolve the problem. However, it’s a serious issue and we will investigate any negative balance and scale through an enforcement program.

We will be doing more inspections to detect water theft, including checking customers whose usage exceeded their entitlement in the previous irrigation season. We will also target areas where there are high volumes of trades and a history of non-compliance.

We remind water entitlement holders that they are responsible for managing their water use and should regularly read their water meter to monitor use against their entitlement.

We try to help our customers with alerts when they are approaching the entitlement volume, but we don’t guarantee that we will check or provide a warning.

If someone has an issue with their water meter, needs help reading their meter or wants to talk about a water trade to boost their allocation they can always talk to us on 1300 139 510.

We would encourage you to read our zero tolerance to unauthorised water take information below.

  • Zero tolerance to unauthorised water take

    Managing water fairly

    Water is a precious and limited resource. It is critical to our economy, environment and communities. This is why water needs to be managed fairly for all water users.

    Zero-tolerance to unauthorised water take

    Taking and using more water than is allowed under your entitlement is illegal. Any water taken in excess of your entitlement means there is less water available for other entitlement holders.

    The Victorian Government and Southern Rural Water have a zero-tolerance approach to unauthorised water take.

    Managing your water

    Water entitlement holders are responsible for managing their water use.

    There are many ways you can avoid exceeding your water entitlement. These include:

    • Make sure you have enough water available in your Allocation Bank Account and allow enough time for allocation trades to be processed.
    • Place irrigation orders through WaterLINE.
    • Check if restrictions apply to your waterway.

    Read your meters or check your usage on WaterLINE or call Southern Rural Water on 1300 139 510.

    Trading water allocation

    To trade water allocation to your Allocation Bank Account you can:

    • Purchase water from a seller within your water system subject to trading rules.
    • Transfer water from another property that you own.
    • Purchase water through a water broker.

    You can find the relevant forms on the Water Register website. 

    Compliance and enforcement

    Southern Rural Water proactively monitors customer account balances through our metering, telemetry and inspection programs.

    Any unauthorised take identified will be investigated and an enforcement response may be required.

    Customers who do not correct their negative balance in their Allocation Bank Account may:

    • Have their access to the system restricted.
    • Be issued with a penalty infringement notice.
    • Be subject to a reduced entitlement the next season through negative carry-over.
    • Face prosecution or have their licence suspended or cancelled.

    What is a penalty infringement notice?

    Southern Rural Water can issue a fine known as a penalty infringement notice to water users who have committed a water infringement offence. All infringement notices are governed by the Infringements Act 2006.

    What offences can be fined?

    Water users can be fined if they take water not in line with their allocation.

    Under the Water Act 1989 and Water (Infringements) Regulations 2020, the following water infringement offences can attract fines:

    • Taking water without a water share in a declared system (up to 10 megalitres)
    • Taking or using water without a take and use licence from a non-declared system (up to 10 megalitres)
    • Wrongful take of water (up to 10 megalitres), interfering with flow of water in any waterway, aquifer or works without any authorisation
    • Breaching conditions of a take and use licence or a works licence
    • Contravening a restriction or prohibition in a permanent water savings plan

    How much are the fines?

    Victoria’s Water (Infringement) Regulations 2020 set gradual penalties, which increase with the amount of water taken and the nature of the offence.

    From 1 July 2023 to 30 June 2024, the maximum penalty for an individual is $2,308 and $11,539 for a body corporate per offence.

    What are my options if I receive a fine?

    Your fine, or penalty infringement notice, will include information about the offence, the amount owed and how it can be paid.

    Information on payment arrangements, along with how to request an internal review, can be found on the Fines Victoria website.

    In addition to paying your fine, you must also bring your account balance back into compliance by purchasing or trading in additional water to your account.

    Reporting non-compliance

    If you wish to report an alleged offence or breach of the Water Act 1989, please contact Southern Rural Water.