Cotton irrigator pleads guilty to illegally pumping water

Sentencing will take place in February. Photo: Shutterstock
Sentencing will take place in February. Photo: Shutterstock

A NORTHERN NSW cotton producer has pleaded guilty to illegally pumping water from the Murray-Darling Basin in a NSW court.

Anthony Barlow, Mungindi, entered his plea in the Land and Environment Court today, going back on a previous claim that he would fight the charges.

The charges relate to pumping water out of the Barwon/Darling system when meters were not working and pumping water during an embargo on extracting water in northern NSW.

Sentencing will take place in February, with fines of up to $500,000 applicable for the charges.

Cotton producers’ water use habits have been in the spotlight in the past few years.

A report on the ABC’s Four Corners program detailing allegedly illegal activity last year heightened already strained relations between irrigators at the head of the Darling River and pastoralists along the lower reaches, who claim over extraction of water upstream is hurting the system in their area.

Water NSW is currently working on two cases of rural water theft, while the NSW government has also established the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) in order to try to create public trust around water use and compliance.

The case involving the Harris family, also in north-west NSW, will be heard in February. The Harrises have previously pleaded not guilty.