The NSW Office of Water is responsible for managing the state's water sources. A key part of this responsibility is ensuring compliance with water management legislation to enable the secure and sustainable sharing of water between users.
While most water users follow the rules and meet requirements, some people carry out illegal water activities – sometimes these actions are deliberate and sometimes they happen because people do not know the law. Water theft and harming a water source can threaten water supplies for legitimate water users and harm the environment, and are serious crimes.
The Office of Water Compliance Policy (PDF, 160.58 KB) explains how we work to prevent, detect and stop illegal water activities. This includes:
- assisting the community to understand their water rights and how to comply with the rules
- monitoring water related activities to identify potential breaches
- investigating alleged breaches and taking appropriate enforcement action when a breach occurs.
Our compliance policy aligns with the NSW Government's commitment to applying an outcomes and risk-based approach to regulation.
What you need to know about water compliance
Download the factsheets below to find out how compliance with water management laws may apply to you.
- Regulated activities, offences and penalties (PDF, 65.78 KB)
- Compliance powers (PDF, 47.01 KB)
- Monitoring compliance (PDF, 48.48 KB)
- Investigating alleged breaches (PDF, 48.4 KB)
Help stop illegal water activities
You can also play a role in water compliance. Information you provide could help stop illegal water related activities in your local area. Download the factsheet below to find out more about reporting an alleged breach.
To make a confidential report, please contact the NSW Office of Water on 1800 633 362 or send an email to email@example.com.
Find out about water users' views on water compliance
Independent researchers from the Australian National University and University of New South Wales conducted a social research survey to examine water users' views and experiences with the regulation of water extraction in NSW. A report of the survey results has been made available to the NSW Office of Water.
The NSW Office of Water provided support for the research including help to develop the survey. The survey results will help the NSW Office of Water identify opportunities for strengthening its focus on regulatory outcomes.
Read the report of the survey results:
- Water extraction in NSW: Stakeholder views and experience of compliance and enforcement (PDF, 1456.65 KB)
Convictions, warnings and compliance announcements
Media releases are located at the DPI media centre.
The NSW Office of Water is committed to protecting the state's water resources and can use a wide range of enforcement measures under the Water Management Act 2000 depending upon the circumstances and significance of a breach. These include warning letters, penalty infringement notices, stop work orders, remediation notices, licence suspension or cancellation, and prosecution.
Penalty infringement notices can be issued for less serious non-compliance – $750 for individuals and $1500 for corporations. Prosecutions for serious non-compliance can lead to penalties of up to $1.1 million for individuals and $2.2 million for corporations.
Read about recent convictions and other compliance-related information in the table below.
|22 October||Company and Dorrigo landowner fined for illegal dam (PDF 40 KB)|
The NSW Office of Water today welcomed the recent conviction and fines imposed on Mongrel Developments Pty Ltd and a Dorrigo landowner in the Downing Centre Local Court for the illegal construction and use of a dam
|23 July||Heavy fines imposed on Kyogle landowner for failure to protect a water source (PDF 197 KB)|
The NSW Office of Water today welcomed the recent conviction and fines imposed on a Kyogle landowner in the Kyogle Local Court for failure to protect a water source.
|31 March||Heavy fines imposed on Hillston irrigator who took water without a meter (PDF 188 KB)|
The NSW Office of Water today welcomed the conviction and fine imposed on a Hillston irrigator in the Griffith Local Court earlier this month.
|26 February||North Coast councils keen on protecting our water sources (PDF 200 KB)|
North Coast councils have shown they are keen to help protect our water resources, with Lismore City Council recently hosting a workshop presented by the NSW Office of Water.
|17 February||Drought brings increased water complaints (PDF 204 KB)|
NSW Water Commissioner, David Harriss, today said drought conditions across much of inland NSW have seen an increase in reports from rural landholders about unauthorised water use.
View the archive of previous convictions, warnings and compliance announcements.