Survey reveals increasing public trust in water enforcement

Media release | 13 January 2021

A community benchmarking survey commissioned by the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) revealed attitudes toward water enforcement in NSW have improved since NRAR’s inception in April 2018.

The survey heard from 1,000 members of the general public, 1,000 water licence holders and 40 stakeholder groups, including Indigenous, environmental, industry and government groups, within the water community.

According to the survey results, 60 per cent of water licence holders and 49 per cent of the general public believed that the compliance and enforcement of water laws had been historically mismanaged in NSW.

Now however, 67 per cent of the general public, 56 per cent of water licence holders and 53 per cent of stakeholder groups reported feeling confident in the enforcement of water laws.

Almost 70 per cent (67%) of water licence holders reported feeling fairly confident in their knowledge of water laws. However, less than half of the general public (49%) understood the consequences of breaching those laws.

Grant Barnes, NRAR’s Chief Regulatory Officer, says that although they are pleased with the results, the regulator recognises more can be done to increase public confidence and help water users to better understand the rules.

“One of our key priorities as the independent NSW water regulator is to ensure every water user – whether they be agricultural businesses, landholders, irrigators or local councils – are equipped with the tools they need to comply with our water laws,” said Mr Barnes.

“That’s why we recently recruited an additional 28 routine monitoring field officers in Tamworth, Dubbo and Deniliquin who are meeting with up to 5000 water users, providing them with educational resources and discussing water compliance.

“This vital work brings our state’s laws to the front of water users’ minds, and the educational material we provide will help to keep it there.”

The survey also showed a lack of awareness of NRAR, with only 26 per cent of the general public and 19 per cent of water licence holders reported knowing what NRAR is.

“We want the community to know we are working hard to ensure our water resources are protected and shared fairly for generations to come and we will continue to keep them informed about our activities,” Mr Barnes continued.

There was also widespread consensus (mean importance scores ranging from 8.4 to 9.5 out of 10) that it was very important for NSW water laws to be enforced.

“Communities across NSW expect a fair, transparent and enforceable compliance regime to prevent unlawful water take and that is what we are delivering,” Mr Barnes said.

“We still have a way to go, but we are on the right track. We have invested in people, technology and partnerships to ensure equitable water use for all, and we don’t shy away from taking enforcement action where appropriate.

“Since our inception, we have commenced 26 prosecutions, 12 of which have been finalised with the vast majority returning a positive result for the state of NSW.

“We want to thank the water community for supporting us and working with us to protect our water resources,” Mr Barnes concluded.

To view the community benchmarking survey results, visit NRAR community surveys

To see the work NRAR does, go to its public register on the NRAR website Go to ‘Reports and data’, then ‘NRAR Public Register’.

To make a confidential report on suspected water misuse, contact the NRAR Hotline on 1800 633 362 or email

NRAR's compliance officers visiting a cattle farmer in New South Wales.