AN IRRIGATOR accused of illegally stealing more than 230 swimming pools worth of water will have to foot a bill for a fish release and forfeit more than a third of their yearly groundwater allocation.
The owner of a 1200-hectare property in the lower Namoi valley allegedly pumped close to 585ML more than they were allowed to from four bores connected to an at-risk water source across two years to June 2020.
The irrigator has now entered a legally binding agreement with the natural resources watchdog.
The enforceable undertaking with the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) will mean the property owner will have to fork out $15,000 towards fish stocking in the Namoi River.
The Namoi River will be replenished with fingerlings - or baby fish - funded by the irrigator and supplied by Narrabri Fish Farm, which specialises in four native species.
They will also have to go without about 36 per cent of their groundwater allocation this financial year, equivalent to the amount allegedly taken beyond their limit.
NRAR director of water regulation Graeme White said there were strict limits on how much water could be pumped from groundwater sources via a bore.
"Bore extraction limits protect fragile groundwater sources from harm," Mr White said.
"By working with the irrigator, we secured $15,000 for the Narrabri Fish Farm that will see fish return to the Namoi River."
NRAR claim the water was taken from the "at-risk" lower Namoi groundwater source, which is part of the Namoi River catchment.
There is high demand for the water it supplies to people across a wide area.
More than 88,255ML per year is supplied to more than 2000 registered bores in a 7630km squared patch.
The agreement has already come into effect and under the terms of the agreement the landholder will also have to cough up $10,000 to NRAR for investigation costs.
They must also install new meters and other data gathering technologies on all company water extraction sites to improve the accuracy of future water management at the property.
Bore extraction limits are one of NRAR's four regulatory priorities and the watchdog will continue to monitor compliance across NSW to address the issue of water users exceeding their bore limits.
NRAR is an independent law enforcement agency with a focus on ensuring communities and the environment get their fair share of the state's precious water resources.
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