Compliance and enforcement
Interim compliance and enforcement policy
An interim compliance and enforcement policy has been established to guide the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation from 1 July 2017, following the amalgamation of the Department of Water, Department of Environment Regulation and the Office of the Environmental Protection Authority,
The policy has been set in the interim and the department will undertake further work including consultation with stakeholder in order to finalise the policy.
What if I receive a:
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, the law does not allow the actions of any water user to interfere with the enjoyment of water resources by others.
Compliance with the law by water users is essential if the department is to effectively manage the state's water resources now and for future generations. There are penalties for not complying with water resource management legislation.
How will the department ensure compliance?
We work with water users to encourage and promote compliance. This is outlined in the Strategy for compliance and enforcement in water resource management. Our strategy involves three stages:
- Detection of possible offences.
- Investigation to confirm offence.
- 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.
The Department of Water is 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.
Frequently asked questions
The following information relates to licences and permits issued under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914
If I fail to meet my obligations as a licence or permit holder, what are the penalties?
The penalties for failing to meet your licensing obligations depend 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 of Water office.
Will my property be inspected?
Our officers 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 determine if an offence has been committed.
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 precedents, and where legislation may require us to proceed directly to prosecution
- statutory time limits defining the time period within which enforcement action must be initiated.
What is a departmental 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 direction?
A direction is a written notice given under the provisions of the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914, directing a specific action to be undertaken within a specified time-frame
We have the power (on behalf of the Minister for Water) to issue a direction to any person, irrespective of whether they hold a licence or permit in proclaimed or unproclaimed groundwater and surface water areas across the state. See also Water licensing in Western Australia.
When can the Department of Water issue a direction?
We can issue a direction when we consider that:
- the taking or use of water is unauthorised
- water is being improperly used or wasted
- all reasonable steps to minimise degradation of the water resource are not being taken
- the use of water is having a harmful effect or is not being used to the best advantage
- the taking of water is interfering with or causing damage to someone else's water rights or land
- the taking of water should not, in the public interest, be permitted to continue
- the waters, bed or banks of a watercourse have been obstructed or interfered with by an unauthorised person
- the Minister for Water has made an order declaring a water shortage, or a determination that water is likely to be insufficient to meet demand.
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:
- 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
- impose conditions on the taking of water
- order any other actions we consider necessary to prevent the unauthorised use of water or degradation of the water resource
- 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 direction you are required to comply with the terms and conditions of the direction. 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 $5000 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 we have the option of varying or revoking a notice.
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 any term, condition or restriction included in the direction. 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 can the Department of Water 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. If you wish to do so, but are unable to make payment within this timeframe you may apply to the Department of Water for an extension. If you believe there may be an error, or wish to apply for an extension, please call 1800 508 885 (choose Option 1).
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.
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 of Water 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 its response to directions, infringements and even prosecution.
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.