You can report to NRAR about:
- people pumping water from a stream when they shouldn’t be
- suddenly seeing no water flowing in a river
- noticing someone building a dam or doing construction work in a creek or river
- seeing water being diverted from a creek or river
- spotting healthy-looking crops when pumping water is banned
- observing water carriers getting water from rivers or creeks
- groundwater bores that may not be approved
- noticing works such as levies or channels that affect the flow of flood waters
- any suspicious water activity
Water theft and harming a water source can threaten water supplies for other water users and harm the environment. Works that change where floodwaters flow can have unexpected impacts on other landholders. These can be serious offences.
Are all suspicious activities illegal?
Many activities that seem suspicious may actually be allowed. An activity is not illegal if:
- a person holds an approval or licence for the activity, and they are complying with the conditions
- a person is carrying out a small-scale activity that is exempt from approval or licence requirements
- the activity falls under basic landholder rights.
You can check on the NSW water register to see if there is approval for a particular property. You will need the lot and deposited plan (DP) number to use this site. The NSW planning portal spatial viewer can find lot and DP numbers.
What we'll need from you
Report a suspicious activity as soon as possible and provide the following information:
- the type of suspicious activity
- the time, date and location of the activity
- the name of the person who is doing the activity, or a description of the person, if known
- details of vehicles involved (description, registration numbers and the type of vehicle or machinery), if known
- any other information you think could be relevant.
What we expect from you
When you provide information to us, we have a set of expectations we need you to meet:
- you will not intentionally provide any wrong or misleading information
- you will provide a clear description of the activity
- you will give us all the information you have, including any new information that may come to hand
- you will cooperate with our inquiries and answer any questions promptly
- you will treat our staff with courtesy and respect
- you will allow our response to be finalised before taking the matter elsewhere unless asked to by NRAR.
If you do not meet these expectations, we may set limits or conditions for continuing our response.
Unreasonable conduct, including making a complaint for no reason, will be handled according to the NSW Ombudsman’s Managing Unreasonable Complainant Conduct Manual 2012.
How we manage your report
NRAR considers the risk-level of each suspicious activity reported.
All reports received are recorded in a database. We assess every report and decide which ones need our immediate attention.
We may determine that no law has been broken. Or find the reported activity is a low priority. We may assign it to ongoing work instead of investigating right away.
We rank reports based on their urgency and impact. We focus on activities that cause serious harm to water sources or cause major damage to the environment.
Other factors we consider before investigating further are whether:
- the report relates to water laws and falls under NRAR’s jurisdiction. Another regulator or agency may be better suited to investigate (for example, the local council, NSW Department of Primary Industries - Fisheries, or the NSW Environment Protection Authority
- the activity is, in fact, lawful (for example, a water user is obeying their licence conditions)
- considerable time has passed since the reported activity took place. This would affect our ability to investigate
- there is a repeated pattern of illegal activity or evidence of a more widespread problem
- the person or organisation has had previous reports made about them for similar reasons
- the report aligns with one of our regulatory priorities
- investigating would use a lot of resources, which does not appear to be justified
- the report relates to a matter already investigated. And the report does not add any further information that would change our decision.
How we'll handle your personal information
If you have provided a postal or email address in your report, you will receive a confirmation letter or email.
An NRAR officer reviewing your report may contact you if they need more information.
If we investigate further, an officer may contact you. If you agree, they may take a witness statement, if the evidence you can provide is very important. A witness statement may be made available to the alleged offender if it goes to court. A witness statement may form part of our case.
If you have concerns about your safety because of the report, we will take these seriously. But this could make it harder for us to act on the report.
We will manage your privacy and all the information you provide according to the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 and the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009.
Disagreements with neighbours
We receive reports from neighbours involved in disagreements unrelated to illegal water activities. Examples include boundary fence disputes, an irrigator watering a neighbouring property or a storm causing a creek to erode a neighbour’s land.
When a dispute between neighbours is unrelated to an illegal water activity, it will likely be a civil or private matter. We will not respond to or resolve these types of matters.
Responding to reports
When investigating reports of alleged breaches of water law, we will:
- confirm that there has been a breach of water law
- confirm the harm or impact of the alleged breach
- identify the likelihood of the illegal activity happening again
- determine any regulatory actions to lessen any harm or potential harm caused
- decide on the appropriate regulatory response
- gather evidence to support the appropriate regulatory response
For detailed information about NRAR’s response to alleged breaches, read our FAQs on responding to alleged breaches.
We will also consider the severity of reports in responding to alleged breaches. We will respond more urgently to reports of alleged breaches that are causing serious, ongoing harm to a water source or the environment.
We will resolve unlawful activities to our satisfaction, not to the satisfaction of the person making the report. Where we are unable to find enough evidence, limited action may result. We may review the report again if new information becomes available.
The complexity of medium and high-priority cases will determine our response. If we consider prosecution, collecting the required evidence may take over two years.