Compliance and enforcement
What if I receive a-
Your responsibility when accessing water resources
Effective compliance and enforcement are essential tools for managing the state's water resources now and for future generations.
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.
There are penalties for not complying with water resource management legislation.
For information about your rights and responsibilities as a licence or permit holder view What are my responsibilities as a licence or permit holder?
How will the department ensure compliance?
Our compliance and enforcement strategy involves three stages:
- Detection of possible offences.
- Investigation to confirm offence.
- Response - taking the appropriate action.
The department works with water users to encourage and promote compliance. This is outlined in the Strategy for compliance and enforcement in water resource management. The department ensures 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 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.
I have a water licence. Will my property be inspected?
Our officers conduct on-ground compliance inspections and desktop surveillance on a regular basis to monitor compliance with licences and to detect unauthorised activities.
Frequently asked questions
If I fail to meet my obligations as a licence or permit holder, what are the penalties?
Penalties for failing to meet your licensing obligations depend on the offence committed and may include:
- the cancellation, suspension or amendment of a 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?
The Department of Water may access your property for routine inspection purposes or to determine if an offence has been committed.
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.
Although officers are authorised to enter land for inspection purposes without giving prior notice, you will usually be notified if we plan to visit your property for routine compliance monitoring purposes.
What happens if I am found to be non-compliant?
The Department of Water makes 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 the alleged offender's 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 the department 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, the department has the authority to initiate an amendment to the terms, conditions and restrictions of the licences that it issues. In certain circumstances the department may, by notice in writing given to the licensee:
- 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.
The department 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 has failed 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 the department proposes to amend, suspend or cancel your licence you have a right to be heard by, or make a written submission to the department if you are aggrieved by the decision. The department 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 by the recipient within a specified time-frame
The Department of Water (on behalf of the Minister for Water) has the power 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. Refer to Water licensing in Western Australia.
When can the Department of Water issue a direction?
The Department of Water can issue a direction where it considers 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 the department considers 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 and may carry 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 the Department of Water who will conduct 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 cases the department has 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.
For further information please contact:
State Administrative Tribunal
12 St Georges Terrace
PERTH WA 6000
GPO Box U1991
PERTH WA 6845
Telephone: 08 9219 3111
Toll-free: 1300 306 017
Facsimile: 08 9325 5099
Note: A State Administrative Tribunal fee may apply when proceeding with your review application.
What is an infringement?
An infringement notice is a written allegation that a person has committed a specific offence that 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?
An infringement notice will only be issued if:
- the department has sufficient evidence that an offence has been committed
- the alleged offence is one that can be dealt with by an infringement notice, and
- 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 do not pay the modified penalty:
- 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.
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.
A 1800 phone number for general enquiries is also provided on the notice.
What is prosecution?
In responding to an alleged offence, the Department of Water 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 administered by the Department of Water 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 behalf of the Department of Water.
When does the Department of Water prosecute?
The Department of Water generally adopts a strategy of escalation, when responding to alleged non-compliance. The department's primary focus is to encourage and promote voluntary compliance through education and awareness. However, in response to serious or repeat offences, the department may escalate its response to directions, infringements and even prosecution.
The department 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.