Investigation and enforcement

The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) is a risk-based regulator that responds to alleged breaches of water law in NSW. As noted in its Regulatory Policy,  NRAR employs a graduated and proportionate approach to any breaches of water laws. This is based on the severity of the breach (its effect on the environment and potential harm to people or property) and the regulated entity’s culpability, cooperation and approach to the breach and the public interest.

NRAR Investigation and Enforcement diagram

In addition to responding to alleged breaches of water laws, NRAR compliance officers carry out monitoring and auditing activities that include inspecting properties to assess compliance with water users’ licences and water laws.

Compliance tools

NRAR uses a suite of tools to respond to an alleged breach of water law. These tools may include one, or a combination of the following:

  • using the alleged breach as part of the intelligence to develop future monitoring and audit programs
  • education and information campaigns
  • incident management—stopping any significant, ongoing effect and remediating it where appropriate
  • investigations and enforcement
  • amending conditions in licences issued by NRAR.

NRAR selects the appropriate tools to apply to alleged breaches. This, in turn, influences whether or not NRAR needs to inspect a site and the time NRAR will need to respond.

Regardless of the assessed priority, all reports of alleged breaches are used to inform NRAR’s intelligence base for preparing compliance responses.

Regulatory responses

NRAR responds in a range of ways to non-compliance when a breach of water law is confirmed. These provide a balanced approach towards addressing improper conduct and promoting changes in attitudes and behaviours, rather than simply applying a punishment. These regulatory responses include, in increasing severity:

  • guidance, education, information
  • advisory letters
  • warnings (written and verbal)
  • cautions
  • corrective action requests
  • statutory directions such as stop-work orders, directions to remove water management works and remediation notices
  • enforceable undertakings
  • penalty infringement notices (PIN)
  • licence action (including suspension, variation or cancellation)
  • civil action, such as:
    • debiting a water licence holder’s account by up to five times the amount of water taken
    • imposing a penalty of up to five times the value of the water taken
    • injunctions for breaches of directions issued by NRAR
  • prosecution.

NRAR employs strong regulatory responses when required. In particular, if NRAR needs to act urgently to prevent any ongoing and significant harm (potential or actual) to a water source, the environment or public safety, it may issue stop-work orders or remediation directions before completing any investigation.

Decisions about the regulatory responses NRAR may employ are made in accordance with the principles set out in the Regulatory Policy, and where appropriate, the Prosecution Guidelines.

Download the Responding to alleged breaches FAQs

Value of water illegally taken

Under section 60G of the Water Management Act 2000 and clause 20 of the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018, the minister may charge for water illegally taken. Trading price data for the purpose of calculating the value of water illegally taken is published on the NSW Water Register. Trading price data means data about assignments of water allocations between access licences occurring in any month, but not any other dealings.

The table below is extracted from the NSW Water Register of water allocation trading price data since 2014–15, for the purpose of calculating the value of water illegally taken. The trading of water allocations, being the water allocation under a water access licence available to be traded in a water year, is known as a water allocation assignment in the NSW Water Register. The table below will be updated monthly to display recent trading price data.