Water licensing compliance and enforcement

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation is committed to being a responsive and credible regulator.
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Compliance and enforcement policy

Our Compliance and enforcement policy details our approach to ensuring compliance with the legislation we administer and responding to breaches of the law to deter and punish offenders and rehabilitate damage caused to the environment.

Your responsibility when accessing water resources

Licensed water users have a legal responsibility to manage their water use in accordance with the terms and conditions of their licence.

While some activities are exempt from licensing and permitting, water legislation prescribes offences and penalties to help ensure that the actions of licensed and unlicensed water users do not adversely impact the water resource or the water dependent environment, or interfere with the enjoyment of water resources by others.

Compliance with the law by water users is essential if we are to effectively manage the state's water resources now and for future generations. There are penalties for not complying with water resource management legislation.

Read more about your responsibilities as a water licence or permit holder.

How will the department ensure compliance?

We work with water users to encourage and promote compliance. Our work involves three stages:

  1. Detection of possible offences
  2. Investigation to confirm offence
  3. Response - taking the appropriate action.

We ensure that compliance and enforcement is conducted properly and fairly by applying the Compliance and Enforcement Policy. The policy also describes the range of tools available to the department to encourage compliance.

We are a signatory to the National Framework for Compliance and Enforcement Systems for Water Resource Management, which is a joint initiative between the federal and state governments to establish a nationally consistent approach to compliance and enforcement activity.

The penalties for failing to meet your licensing obligations depends on the offence committed, but may include:

  • the cancellation, suspension or amendment of your licence or permit
  • the issue of a direction to comply with your licence terms, conditions or restrictions, to carry out specific works, or to limit your taking of water
  • the issue of an infringement notice
  • prosecution action.

We may refuse to renew your licence if we believe you will not comply with licence conditions.

If you are unable to comply with or do not understand any of the terms or conditions of your licence contact your local department office.

Will my property be inspected?

Our officers conduct desktop surveillance on a regular basis to monitor compliance with licences and to detect unauthorised activities.

We may also access your property to conduct on-ground compliance inspections to check compliance with water legislation, including with water licence and permit conditions.

You will usually be notified if we plan to visit your property, although we are authorised to enter land for routine inspection purposes without giving prior notice.

Under section 71 of the Water Agencies (Powers) Act 1984, officers may enter and re-enter property, without notice, for routine inspection or maintenance and to take measures necessary to establish if an offence against the relevant Act is being committed.

What happens if I am found to be non-compliant?

We make our compliance and enforcement decisions on an individual basis. The level and type of response will depend on such factors as:

  • the nature of the offence, including your compliance history, the seriousness of the alleged offence, how long it has continued, and if it was foreseeable
  • the risk to the water resource, other water users, communities, or the water-dependent environment
  • the expected effect of the response on future compliance
  • legal precedent
  • statutory time limits defining the time period within which enforcement action must be initiated.

What is a department licence amendment, suspension and cancellation?

Under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914, we have the authority to initiate an amendment to the terms, conditions and restrictions of your licence.

In certain circumstances we may, by giving you notice in writing:

  • vary the duration of a licence
  • vary, add to or remove and term, condition or restriction included in the licence
  • include any new term, condition or restriction.

We may also cancel or temporarily suspend a licence in certain circumstances. One such circumstance is where a licensee or agreement holder is convicted of an offence against the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914, or fails to comply with any term, condition or restriction of a licence.

What are my options if the department proposed to amend, suspend or cancel my licence?

If you receive written notice that we propose to amend, suspend or cancel your licence you have a right to be heard by, or make a written submission us if you are aggrieved by the decision. We must then have regard to the submission you have made, prior to reaching a final decision.

Under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914, you may also have a right to apply to the State Administrative Tribunal to request the review of a departmental decision to amend, suspend or cancel your licence.

What is a statutory direction?

A statutory direction is a written notice directing a specific action to be undertaken by a certain person, within a specified timeframe.

Statutory directions can be given under sections 17, 22, 26G, 26GC and Schedule 1, clause 18 of the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914.  Direction notices are not always issued in response to an allegation that an offence has been committed.  For example, a direction notice may direct someone to cease or restrict a certain activity that is causing harm to a water resource or is affecting the rights of other users, or to undertake certain activities such as rehabilitation or restoration works.

What can a direction do?

A direction provides the reason and the remedy required to manage impacts on the water resource or another person.

It may be used to:

  • direct compliance with any conditions of a water licence that have not been complied with by the licensee
  • order the repair, alteration closure, or partial closure of a bore or well
  • regulate the amount of water, or the rate at which it may be taken, from a bore or well
  • stop or limit the taking of water, or the purpose for which water is used
  • order the restoration of the bed or banks of a watercourse by a person convicted of an offence under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914.

What are my options if I receive a direction?

If you receive a statutory direction under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 you are required to comply with the directions given in the notice.

Be sure to read the notice carefully so that you understand your responsibilities and options, as failure to comply with a direction is an offence carrying a maximum penalty of $5,000 and a daily penalty of up to $500.

If you would like to object to the direction, or to any of the terms of the notice, you may contact us to request a review.

A contact person and their details should have been identified on the correspondence you would have received with the notice. If a contact person has not been provided, please contact the department's regional office identified at the bottom of the correspondence. You will be notified of the outcome of the review, and of the reasons for the decision. In some circumstances we have the option of varying or revoking a direction notice.

A person given a direction, or variation of a direction, under section 22, 26G or 26GC of the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914, may apply to the State Administrative Tribunal for a review of the decision to give the direction or variation. You have 28 days from the date you receive the direction to request that the decision be reviewed. A fee may apply.

For further information please contact the State Administrative Tribunal.

What is an infringement?

An infringement notice is a written allegation that a person has committed a specific offence.

It offers the alleged offender the option of payment of a modified penalty to dispose of the matter.

Paying an infringement is not an admission of guilt and no criminal conviction is recorded.

When will the department issue an infringement?

We will only issue an infringement notice if:

  • we have sufficient evidence that an offence has been committed
  • the alleged offence is one that can be dealt with by an infringement notice
  • it is believed that the offence was committed within the relevant timeframe for issuing notices.

What are my options if I receive an infringement?

If you receive an infringement be sure to read the notice carefully so that you understand your responsibilities and options.

You are required to pay the modified penalty within 21 days of the notice being issued.

To pay an infringement

Go to Make a payment.

If you do not pay

If payment is not made by the due date stated on the infringement, a Final Demand Notice will be sent. An additional fee is added, and an extra 28 days is allowed for payment to be made.

If payment is not received within 28 days of the Final Demand Notice, the penalty may be recovered by the Fines Enforcement Registry or a prosecution notice may be issued against you for the alleged offence, and the matter will be dealt with by a court.

For more information on overdue fines, contact the Fines Enforcement Registry.

Requesting withdrawal of an infringement notice

There are no provisions in the legislation for a review process for infringement notices, however each Act that allows for the issue of an infringement notice also provides a mechanism for the withdrawal of an infringement notice within 28 days. You should contact the department if you believe that you have grounds to request withdrawal of an infringement notice.

A contact person and their details should have been identified on the correspondence you would have received with the notice. If a contact person has not been provided, please contact the department's regional office identified at the bottom of the correspondence.

If the infringement relates to a breach of domestic sprinkler restrictions, please call the 1800 phone number provided on the notice.

What is prosecution?

In responding to an alleged offence, we may seek to have a sanction imposed on an alleged offender by a court, and a criminal conviction recorded.

All of the offences contained within the legislation we administer are simple or summary only offence and are heard in a magistrate's court. Ordinarily any hearings will take place in the court responsible for the local area in which the offence is alleged to have been committed.

The State Solicitor's Office of Western Australia prosecutes offences on our behalf.

When does the department prosecute?

We generally adopt a strategy of escalation, when responding to alleged non-compliance.

Our primary focus is to encourage and promote voluntary compliance through education and awareness. However, in response to serious or repeat offences we may escalate our response to direction, infringement and even prosecution action.

We will only commence prosecution action when:

  • there are reasonable prospects of securing a conviction
  • it is in the public interest to do so.

What are my options if I receive a prosecution notice?

Should you receive a prosecution notice, you have the option to:

  • plead guilty in writing by endorsing a plea and returning it to the court
  • plead not guilty in writing and request a trial
  • ask for full disclosure of evidence prior to committing to a plea, or
  • appear at court and enter a plea.

How do I make a complaint about water use?

If you see any activity you believe to be unlawful taking of water, interference of bed or banks, or the construction of bores or dams, please report this to us through our feedback and complaints management system.