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How we ensure compliance

How we respond to breaches of the law

NRAR responds to breaches of water laws in a number of ways. How we respond depends on the severity of the breach, the degree to which the offender is responsible for the breach and their attitude to compliance and the public interest.

We aim to ensure appropriate consequences for illegal activity while helping to change offenders’ attitudes and behaviours, rather than simply applying a punishment. By these means we are building public confidence in NRAR as a trusted, effective and transparent regulator.

NRAR will take strong regulatory action when required. If NRAR needs to act urgently to prevent significant harm to a water source, the environment or public safety, it may issue stop-work orders or remediation directions before completing any investigation.

Serious breaches of water laws can lead to penalties of up to $1.1 million for an individual and $5.005 million for a corporation. Daily penalties also apply for each day an offence continues. Individuals can face up to two years in prison for some offences.

When NRAR issues a direction or penalty notice, agrees to an enforceable undertaking or prosecutes a person or company, we publish the details on the NRAR Public Register.

Decisions about how we respond to breaches are made according to our Regulatory Policy, and where appropriate, the Prosecution Guidelines.

For more information see Responding to alleged breaches FAQs.

How we respond to breaches may 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 works such as pumps and pipes, and remediation notices
  • enforceable undertakings
  • penalty notices
  • 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; visit the NSW Water Register for more information on how NRAR calculates penalties
    • injunctions for breaches of directions issued by NRAR
  • prosecution.

When faced with significant breaches of water laws, NRAR’s most serious sanctions are prosecution or licence suspension/cancellation - but there is an alternative. An enforceable undertaking (EU) can avoid lengthy, costly court action for both NRAR and the defendant. See more on prosecutions and enforceable undertakings below.


Find out what triggers a prosecution and see our ongoing and concluded cases.


Enforceable undertakings

Find out about this alternative to prosecution and read some case studies.

Enforceable undertaking

Penalty infringement notices

Find out about the types of offences that may result in a PIN.

The Hawksbury River on an overcast morning, NSW.