Water Week

EWN Publishing

Interstate farmers steal River Murray water from groundwater, tributaries and the river itself: much cheaper than legally buying the resource; 68 allegations of water theft from the Murray and Murrumbidgee river areas

Posted by waterweek on 2 October 2007

According to environment reporter Cara Jenkin, reported in The Advertiser (26/09/2007, p.3), interstate farmers were stealing River Murray water and were happy to risk a fine because it was cheaper than legally buying the resource.

68 reported cases in NSW: Last financial year, the NSW Water and Energy Department received 68 allegations of water theft from the Murray and Murrumbidgee river areas. It found 44 warranted further investigation and most were now before court.

Increasing thefts – a cause for worry: Goulburn Murray Water investigated 87 incidents last year, of which 26 were successfully prosecuted and 56 were pending. A spokesperson for SA Water Security Minister Karlene Maywald said the Government was concerned about any illegal taking of water from the Murray.

No records for groundwater: Authorities were unable to determine how much water was stolen from groundwater, tributaries and the river itself by desperate farmers. Illegal bores, pumps, channels and embankments take water across the Murray-Darling basin, which covered four states.
Tankers being used to suck water from the River Murray had also been reported.

Cheaper than buying: Both New South Wales and Victorian water authorities fine and prosecute farmers who took water illegally or beyond their allocation. Victorian water company Goulburn-Murray Water fined farmers who overused their allocation $2000 per megalitre, compared to the average price of $2300 a megalitre this month to buy one megalitre of water.

Too cheap to deter: Last month, one NSW farmer was fined $800 and $1000 in legal fees by a court for an unlicensed bore. Victorian courts had also fined farmers between $500 and $850 for water theft.

The Advertiser, 26/9/2007, p. 3

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