Sydney, Australia — (METERING.COM) — March 10, 2009 – A Murrumbidgee man has been convicted for tampering with a water meter, marking the first conviction to be made under New South Wales’ Water Management Act 2000.

The man, Benjamin Ovenden, received a fine of Au$5,000 (US$3,220) and was also ordered to pay the state Department of Water and Energy’s legal costs of Au$800 (US$515) and court costs of Au$73 (US$47). Ovenden had intentionally tampered with a bore meter in April 2008 so that it did not record the volume of water being pumped.

The conviction was welcomed by the NSW Department of Water and Energy. The Department’s water legal and compliance executive director, Tim Holden, was quoted as saying that water meter tampering and water theft will not be tolerated by the NSW government.

“This decision shows that if you break the law you could face hefty fines and be named,” said Holden, adding that while the continuing drought had placed many NSW irrigators under immense stress, this was no excuse for intentionally breaking the law.

“Breaking the law is not the answer – the NSW government is monitoring water use closely and will come down hard on people who intentionally break the law.”

Since the tampering was committed and in response to drought and climate change the state has introduced new tougher compliance laws, which became effective on January 1, 2009. These apply mainly to NSW water licence holders, bore water users and landholders who live along a state waterway and make provision for fines of up to Au$1.1 million (US$0.7 million) and imprisonment for up to two years for individuals and fines of up to Au$2.2 million (US$1.4 million) for corporations.

Offences include meter tampering, failing to properly install or maintain metering equipment or keep metering records, taking water when not authorized by a licence, and harming an aquifer or waterfront land.