IT SOUNDS like something out of CSI, but satellites are being used to track water law rule-breakers by the independent watchdog.
In the last financial year, the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) dished out 11 penalty notices in the Namoi region which includes Gunnedah and three of those penalties were in Tamworth.
Those included two alleged counts of a failure to comply with requirements related to the Upper and Lower Namoi Regulated River Water Sources and one alleged count of carrying out a controlled activity without approval related to the Peel alluvium.
Sophisticated satellite images are used to compare the amount of water a user is entitled to with the growth of their crops, NRAR chief regulatory officer Grant Barnes said.
"It's a rapidly emerging field," he said.
"We might detect remote analysis possible breaches, we use that to deploy staff to engage with landholders and talk about what we've seen remotely and whether what the satellite shows is what happens on farm.
"We have really strong means of detection, we will find breaches of water law ... we find water users find it difficult as times and complicated to understand, but I also say we find it difficult to monitor and enforce."
Tamworth Regional Council was slapped with two $1500 fines by NRAR for taking water it was not entitled to from the Scott Road drift wells in August, after the council reported its own breach.
NRAR compliance staff inspected more than 500 properties in the last financial year, finalised 1367 investigations of alleged water law breaches and began 15 prosecutions.
The North Coast clocked the highest number of penalty infringements at 43.