Media Release


No ‘widespread water theft’ – in fact, hardly any

NSW Irrigators’ Council (NSWIC) has welcomed the latest progress report by the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR), which shows most irrigators doing the right thing.

The 2021-22 report found 99% of properties inspected for overdrawn accounts were compliant.

In NRAR’s latest quarterly report, only 78 watertake/metering offences were investigated, translating to just 0.65% of NSW’s 12,000 water access licence holders.

“The compliance outcomes show the vast majority of irrigators are doing the right thing,” said NSWIC CEO, Claire Miller.

“The data speaks for itself and debunks the common misconception of widespread water theft.

“NRAR has boots on the ground, and eyes in the sky, so you really can’t get away with doing the wrong thing whether it’s water take, metering, ordering or works, and everyone knows that.”

NRAR, aka the water police, was created after the 2017 ABC 4Corners episode ‘Pumped’, which revealed a poor record of departmental compliance enforcement.

A formal investigation resulted in several water reforms, including upgrading water meters to a new, world-leading gold standard, and the establishment of NRAR.

“NSW water users now have a strong culture of compliance and awareness of their obligations,” said Ms Miller. “Getting caught by NRAR is a strong taboo among irrigation neighbours.

“It’s disappointing to see groups continuing to peddle the myth of widespread water theft, when the contrary evidence is there for anyone to look up on NRAR’s website.”

To use the Macquarie region as an example, NRAR completed 160 investigations in 2021-22 and did not have to issue a single fine. In a media comment, NRAR’s CRO Grant Barnes said:

“Our works in your region…. confirms something we have always known – and that is most people want to do the right thing and abide by NSW water rules … There is a lot to celebrate for the water using communities of the Macquarie-Castlereagh region.”

“This is a success story we can all celebrate,” said Ms Miller.

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