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What we do

Monitoring and audit

NRAR routine monitoring vehicle driving through water in NSW

The Monitoring and Audit (M&A) team will be on the front line of implementing NRAR’s new direction in 2021. For its first three years NRAR focused on enforcement and responding to a large number of reported breaches in the context of major drought.

The next phase for NRAR is to focus more on developing working partnerships with water users and preventing non-compliance by helping them better understand the rules and how to apply them.

Monitoring whether water users are complying with the laws is one of NRAR’s most important activities. Who and where we monitor is based on our intelligence, including our analysis of the likelihood and impact of non-compliance, as well as reports received of potential breaches of water laws.

Our research enables us to target the geographic areas or types of businesses which appear to be most at risk of not complying, and which would cause the most harm to water resources. This research is the basis for M&A campaigns, which determine the level of compliance within a regulated community.

M&A campaigns may include:

  • inspections determined by risk rating
  • audit programs on NRAR compliance priorities.

Why do we monitor?

Information we gather during compliance monitoring and audits is used to:

  • detect instances of non-compliance in a timely manner
  • determine the level of compliance in particular areas and any trends
  • identify what type of education response is needed and when
  • Identify whether enforcement action is necessary
  • identify where action may be needed to avoid or minimise harm to waterways
  • determine whether more education on water rules is needed in certain regions or businesses
  • assess and review the effectiveness of our targeted campaigns, operations, and existing education and information programs
  • inform communities or industries of the results of campaigns in their area, to help them solve their compliance problems at a local level.
Close up image of an NRAR drone

How do we monitor?

Our monitoring and audit (M&A) teams monitor water use by inspecting properties, desktop audits and remote sensing.

On-ground monitoring

If you are visited by a monitoring team, you can expect them to:

  • check you have a valid licence or approval for your activities, if required
  • help you understand the conditions on your licences or works approvals and guide you to full compliance
  • check your meters or other measuring devices are fitted correctly and are working
  • check you are taking water in accordance with the conditions on your licence and/or approval, your basic landholder rights or any water restrictions that may apply.

Remote monitoring

It’s not only licensed water users with approvals who our M&A team visit to check their  compliance with water laws. The technology team uses satellite imagery and aerial photography to look for properties with water-related activities such as cultivation, which are then cross-checked against our licensing and approvals databases. This process is used to produce a list of properties of interest for our M&A team to visit.

What’s an audit?

When we have determined a geographic area or industry is a particular risk, our officers will plan and conduct an audit. Audits are more formal than compliance monitoring inspections and must be conducted to an International Standard. If you are audited, your compliance with the conditions on your licences or works approvals is systematically checked.

Authorised officers may check:

  • you are taking water in accordance with your licence conditions
  • that your water management works (such as pumps, pipes or bores) were constructed and are being operated according to your approval conditions
  • any controlled activities (works on waterfront land) are being carried out according to your approval conditions.

They will also check you fully understand the conditions on your licences and approvals. An example of an audit campaign was Operation Drawdown which focused on potentially over-extracting bores in the Lower Murrumbidgee, Lower Lachlan and Namoi areas.

After an audit, the water user is given a full audit report of the findings, and notification of any enforcement action to take place as a result.

NRAR officers conducting a covid safe inspection

What if I am found to be not compliant?

Follow-up action to address any non-compliances found in a monitoring inspection or audit depends on the degree of non-compliance, and may include:

  • advisory letters or formal warnings
  • enforceable directions to take certain actions
  • penalty notices
  • changes to licence and approval conditions
  • further investigation, and action such as prosecution.

If you are compliant, you will receive a letter of acknowledgement afterwards, thanking you for complying with the rules.

What else do M&A officers do?

Monitor water events: Our monitoring and audit officers also monitor whether local water users are complying with rules during specific environmental water releases and temporary water restrictions. Find out how they do this in the  Environmental flows - our compliance approach fact sheet.

Education: When M&A officers visit your property they will answer your questions and if necessary teach you about your obligations. They will also offer printed fact sheets or links to online resources such as NRAR’s compliance guidance tool if you need them. By increasing water users’ knowledge of the laws and the reasons for them, NRAR encourages people to voluntarily comply.