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Falsely accused water cheats....

NEIGHBOURHOOD snoops have falsely accused thousands of Victorians of breaking water bans.

Nasty neighbours seeking revenge on enemies are among those making nuisance reports.

Other whistleblowers are genuinely unaware suspiciously lush lawns and gardens are due to grey water diversions and water tanks.

Ten households and businesses a day on average were dobbed in for illegally guzzling water across Melbourne in the past year.

But just 950 of the 3775 reports - or one in four - resulted in property inspections once consumption was checked.

Authorities deny going soft on suspected law breakers, claiming many reported breaches are the result of misunderstandings or feuds.

"Neighbours who are not on the best of terms have used water restrictions as a way of furthering ongoing arguments," Target 155 spokesman Tony Kelly said.

The Herald Sun also found:

PATROL officers are snapping photos of residents watering yards to gather evidence after reports of illegal activity.

AUTHORITIES warned 46 metropolitan households and businesses over water misuse from last December to November this year.

A NURSERY stealing water to fill a dam is among 32 cheats fined for offences such as not using trigger nozzles and watering outside allocated times or days.

Water Minister Tim Holding said rogues would not be let off the hook.

"The vast majority of people do the right thing but if people are caught blatantly or regularly breaking water restrictions, they can expect to be fined," Mr Holding said.

False claims included a woman accused of filling her pool with a hose during a noise dispute; a man reported for washing his car and caravan with a high-pressure cleaner when it was connected to tank water; and jealous neighbourhood spies dobbing in neighbours with beautiful gardens that were legally kept alive.

Mr Kelly encouraged witnesses of breaches to phone the confidential hotline 13WATER (13 92 837) but to avoid false alarms by trying to check if tank or grey water was being used.

The Herald Sun has previously revealed isolated cases of abuse and vandalism directed at homeowners wrongly accused of breaking the law.

Penalties for proven water cheats range from $467 to $7009 or three months' jail.

Most offenders cleaned up their act after a warning, Mr Kelly said.

Herald Sun Dec 20th 2009

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