THE Murrumbidgee region is under the microscope when it comes to water law enforcement, receiving the state's highest number of penalties recently.
The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) has released its quarterly compliance results, issuing 17 penalty notices for water regulation breaches in the Murrumbidgee region between April and June 2021 - the highest number in NSW.
In one case finalised in this quarter, $15,750 worth of penalty notices were issued for breaches of annual bore extraction limits committed over a period of three years.
These were issued to three individuals and two companies for offences which occurred in the Griffith region.
All approval holders are responsible for ensuring compliance with the Water Management Act, otherwise they could be held liable for any breaches of those conditions.
In addition to these, eight formal warnings were also given in the Murrumbidgee (the second highest number in NSW) and two statutory notices.
A statutory notice can request further information or documents, or order other actions, such as the removal of unauthorised structures.
The high number of enforcement actions in the region were due to NRAR's regulatory priorities for 2021-22, which focus attention on enforcing bore extraction limits and looking closely at overdrawn water accounts.
The most common offences identified in this region were unauthorised structures or works built around waterways which accounted for more than 45 per cent of offences.
Exceeding water allocation or failing to comply with water meter rules made up a further 36 per cent of offences.
All of Griffith, Leeton, Nerrandera, Coolamon and Junee local government areas are within the Murrumbidgee region covered by NRAR, as well as portions of many others.
NRAR's Chief Regulatory Officer, Grant Barnes, said the good news was that of the hundreds of investigations completed between April and June this year, the vast majority required no enforcement action.
"The bad news is that some water users continue to break the law, but they do so in the knowledge that NRAR has sophisticated means to detect non-compliance and that we enforce the law firmly and fairly," Mr Barnes said.
The digital reporting tool features interactive maps at both regional and local government scale and can show users with a few clicks what is happening with water enforcement where they live, and allow them to compare progress across each quarter.
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Mr Barnes, said the independent water regulator will continue to release data about its compliance and enforcement activities on a quarterly basis.
"NRAR was established in April 2018 to bring greater focus on the enforcement of water laws in NSW," he said.
"Our function is to provide fair, transparent, efficient and accountable water law enforcement.
"Our quarterly compliance dashboard increases transparency by outlining the compliance and enforcement actions we have undertaken to ensure water is used lawfully and shared fairly in NSW."
There were 108 enforcement actions across NSW, for a cumulative total of 228 so far this year.
The reporting tool divides NSW into 14 water management regions: Barwon-Darling and West, Murrumbidgee, Murray, Clyde, Lachlan, Macquarie-Castlereagh, Namoi, Gwydir, Border Rivers, North Coast, Far North Coast, Hunter, Central Coast, and Greater metro.
"While we've still got lots of work to do, we are on the right track. Recent research has revealed people in NSW believe the enforcement of water laws is important, and we remain committed to delivering this," Mr Barnes said.
To find out more visit https://www.dpie.nsw.gov.au/nrar.
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