A MAJOR review of Victoria’s water laws which includes penalties for unauthorised entry to catchment storages and tampering with meters has been opened up for public comment.
The draft has almost 600 pages detailing a myriad of laws for water management and use.
Even the “plain English” explanatory guide is 45 pages.
Under the proposed changes the Water Act 1989 and the Water Industry Act 1994 would be merged into a new single tranche of regulations.
Among the proposed changes is a new offence for entering a closed catchment under the control of a water corporation without written approval.
“The intent is to protect the quality of drinking water — this is considered a more serious offence than the general offence for trespassing onto water corporation land,” the draft states.
By-passing or interfering with meters will be regarded as unauthorised use of water.
The draft suggests more alternatives to court action for offenders.
Regulations on providing false or misleading information in an application or document will also be simplified by rolling five offences into one.
The review proposed to consolidate water management for particular areas, more efficient processes in identifying long-term risks to water resources, clarifying and simplifying processes for licences, clearer definition of the functions of water corporations and catchment management authorities.
Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty said public forums would be held across regional Victoria and Melbourne in January and February.
Copies of the draft and explanatory guide are on the Living Victoria website. Comments must be lodged by February 14.