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Policing water crime in Australia: Compliance, enforcement and technology

IWRA 2020 Online Conference - Addressing Groundwater Resilience under Climate Change
THEME 3. Contribution of Technology to Groundwater Resilience
Author(s): Kristyn Glanville, Tariro Mutongwizo, Cameron Holley & Darren Sinclair

1. University of New South Wales (UNSW)
2. University of Canberra

Keyword(s): Groundwater, Green criminology, policing, technology, Australia, regulation, compliance, enforcement


(a) Purpose or objectives and status of study or research hypothesis

The research focuses on the adoption of new metering technology in New South Wales (NSW) and how this has contributed to policing water crime. Aspects of Green criminology will be relied on to understand the policing of water use through technology.


(b) Key issue(s) or problem(s) addressed

The research provides some timely insights for policymakers and the literature regarding the implementation of monitoring and information technology. It extends the understanding of water users’ views of water metering and the potential challenges to generating buy-in to metering and information technology reforms. Some key insights are related to the transformational roles that technology can have for water regulation and reducing water crime.


(c) Methodology or approach used

The data is drawn from the Murray Darling Basin in Australia. It draws on a survey of over 4000 water users and 120 interviews with government agencies, regulatory officers, collaborative planning bodies, agricultural water users, bore drillers, industry associations and local governments.


(d) Results and conclusions derived from the project

While novel monitoring and information technologies have been celebrated for policing water crime, they have however given rise to new concerns around data privacy, data security, and regulatory reach. Such concerns can produce anxiety and apprehension amongst regulated actors. Although regulated actors can benefit from new technologies, through better management in the long term, or reduced delays caused by inspector visits, there may be increased costs in the short term (e.g. purchasing new technologies). The resulting resistance from regulated individuals and firms can accordingly weaken the effectiveness of regulation. Additionally, the advent of new technology, and its capacity to ignore geographic boundaries and remoteness means that agricultural communities are now increasingly subject to new levels of regulation using real-time monitoring and information diffusion.


(e) Implications of the project relevant to selected conference theme, theory and/or practice

New technologies and their rapid spread alongside global information infrastructure such as the Internet, have provided for the easy and speedy capture and circulation of information. New monitoring and information technologies have made regulators’ core business cheaper and faster, and additionally, the technology can increase the ability to prevent, reduce and treat pollution, and drive compliance through transparency and accountability. The availability of such reliable, credible and robust information is crucial for good water regulation and reducing water crime. It is important for regulators to work towards encouraging water users to embrace the benefits of metering technology and this can be aided through better management and confidence in the new technology and monitoring system. Regulators would benefit from considering the possibility for some flexibility in meter choice among meters that allow for high standards of telemetry. This will ensure all meters have a minimum baseline as it may be challenging to conform to a specific government standard. Other implications that need to be considered are engaging water users in the selection and placement of meters.

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