Policing water crime in Australia and France: Compliance, enforcement, and technology

Dr Tariro Mutongwizo1, Professor  Cameron  Holley, Dr Jean-Daniel  Rinaudo

1University of New England (UNE), Australia

The uneven distribution of water around the world, along with climate change have led to a major rise in water theft (Baird, Walters, & White, 2020; Brisman, McClanahan, South, & Walters, 2018; Loch et al., 2020). This emerging but underexamined green criminological issue (Baird et al., 2020) threatens human and water security and has wide-ranging impacts on land use, food production and ecosystems. To further develop arguments brought forward by Baird et al. (2020), this article will look at the types of policing that have been introduced to combat water theft in Australia and France (both leaders in water policing).

Until recently, the intersection of water and crime has within criminological scholarship focused mainly on contamination, pollution, and terrorism, as well as fraud, price-fixing and tax evasion (Brisman et al., 2018; Felbab-Brown, 2017; McClanahan, Brisman, & South, 2015). The focus on stealing water is seen as being motivated or caused by defective policies of privatization or by regulatory failures permitting criminal behaviour (Brisman et al., 2018).

The research takes a problem-oriented policing approach to observe how the adoption of water regulation in New South Wales, Australia and France has contributed to policing water crime. The research provides some timely insights for policymakers and the literature regarding the implementation of water policing. It extends the understanding of water users’ views of water law and the potential challenges to generating buy-in to compliance. Some key insights are related to the transformational roles that technology can have for water regulation and reducing water crime. Although regulated actors can benefit from compliance, resistance from regulated individuals and firms can weaken the effectiveness of technology and enforcement. The research contributes to identifying the key role that policing plays in reducing water crime.


Tariro is a Lecturer in Criminology at the University of New England (UNE). Her research interests include multidisciplinary approaches to exploring the non-state governance of security, the governance of contested spaces and the security of vulnerable and marginalised groups.


Aug 26 2021


8:00 am - 6:00 pm