GMW driving water theft down

At Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW), we create a fairer climate for our customers through our zero-tolerance approach to water theft.

Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) has created a fairer climate for its customers through its zero-tolerance approach to water theft.

Water is a valuable and limited resource. Most customers manage their water usage with integrity and stay within their entitlements.

GMW’s responsibility is to protect these customers from the consequences of water theft. Everyone needs to ensure they are not paying for others’ misdoings. The zero-tolerance approach to water theft is a commitment to its customers that GMW will do everything possible to guarantee equity. Recent figures provide evidence of this commitment.

In the 2019/20 season, 0.73 per cent of delivered water was an unauthorised take. That means it was taken illegally. This figure may not seem high, but it accounted for more than 10,000 ML of water during that irrigation season.

Throughout the 2021/22 irrigation season, 0.24 per cent of delivered water was an unauthorised take, equating to 4693.3ML.

One of the main factors driving this figure down is an increased emphasis on compliance.

Water theft drops with increased compliance

GMW has continued to invest in modern metering and telemetry to improve water usage monitoring. Not only do staff have greater access to data, but their customers do too.

Additional data and the assistance of GMW’s customer support team means they give customers all the tools customers need to ensure they stay within their entitlements.

However, the reduction in unauthorised take can also be attributed to how GMW enforces the laws when people break them.

The actions GMW takes to ensure compliance means unauthorised take is increasingly likely to be intentional rather than negligent. Where possible, GMW gives people in unauthorised take the ability to correct their actions.

If corrective measures are not taken, GMW moves to prosecution, suspension, or cancellation of an authorisation.

Across the past two irrigation seasons, GMW has completed 38 prosecutions. These help GMW recuperate the costs of stolen water – with fines of up to $10,000 being issued – but deter those who might otherwise illegally take water.

Irrigation needs to deal with water theft

This irrigation season, GMW will have even better equipped to tackle water theft.

Earlier this year, the Water (Infringements) Regulations 2020 was amended to allow the issuing of Penalty Infringement Notices (PIN).

An Authorised Water Officer can now issue a PIN to an individual or body corporate who has committed a water infringement offence without having to go to court. The maximum penalty for an individual is $2,219 and $11,095 for a body corporate.

GMW believes PINs will be an invaluable tool in water enforcement.

In the Loddon Valley, GMW is trialling a meter-reading project where customer meter readings will be mandatory when customers place orders on non-telemetered meters.

GMW is thankful to those customers for joining this trial, and are eager to see if it helps customers better manage their accounts by ensuring their information is up-to-date.

Water compliance helps the environment and allows GMW’s customers. GMW is eager to help in any way possible. If you have any questions, feel free to phone 1800 013 357 or email

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