Water resource compliance and enforcement

We undertake a range of rural water measurement and compliance activities to support people to sustainably manage and use water.

These activities support public confidence in how water is managed across the state and protect the rights of all water entitlement holders and the broader community.

This page explains how we identify breaches and the range of compliance and enforcement actions we may take.

To see how regulatory responsibilities are undertaken visit our role as a water regulator.


Offences under the Water Act 2000 include:

  • taking or interfering with water without the required entitlement (maximum 1,665 penalty units)
  • taking water in excess of the volume or at a rate greater than allowed under the water entitlement (maximum 1,665 penalty units).

If you have a metered entitlement, offences include:

  • not providing meter readings to the department when requested (maximum 20 penalty units)
  • taking water through an unapproved meter – for example, a faulty meter (maximum 1,665 penalty units)
  • failing to comply with requirements for dealing with faulty meters (maximum 20 penalty units).

It is essential that rural water users ensure they have the correct entitlement before taking or interfering with water, and that they follow their compliance requirements, including the conditions of the entitlement.

To check requirements, visit your water plan area page or contact your local water management office.

How we identify breaches

The Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water monitors and evaluates water use through a range of methods, including:

  • field and desktop audits
  • metering
  • notifications by third parties (e.g. complaints).

Our monitoring activities increase in areas where pressure on water resources is greatest, for example in the Queensland Murray-Darling Basin.

Enforcement actions

Our compliance approach for natural resources supports communities and industries, while also helping to protect our environment. We strive to be consistent, fair and responsive, and to support the community to do the right thing.

How we respond to breaches depends on the:

  • type of breach
  • nature or level of risk and seriousness of the breach
  • location of the breach
  • compliance history of the person responsible.

Depending on these factors, our actions could include:

  • an advisory letter or warning notice
  • notices that require you to take certain actions (statutory notices)
  • fines (called penalty infringement notices)
  • amendment or cancellation of your entitlement
  • prosecution for serious breaches.

Fines and penalty units

Some water use offences may incur a fine, based on a system of penalty units – a set amount of money used to calculate each fine.

The fine is calculated by multiplying the value of 1 penalty unit by the number of penalty units set for that breach.

For example, the maximum number of penalty units for taking water in excess of the volume a person is entitled is 1,665 penalty units. The maximum fine that a court could impose for the offence would be 1,665 x ($ penalty unit value). A penalty infringement notice issued by an authorised officer for this offence could be 20 penalty units.

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