A COTTON producer from northern NSW has copped a large fine from the Land and Environment Court in NSW for water theft.
Anthony Barlow, who was the centre of allegations raised in an ABC Four Corners report last year, was found guilty of illegally extracting water from the Barwon River at his Mungindi property.
It was reported he was fined $190,000 for the offences, well below the maximum fine of $742,500.
Mr Barlow pleaded guilty to pumping water from the Barwon River during an embargo caused by a water shortage in Broken Hill downstream and to pumping when metering equipment was faulty.
All up, Mr Barlow illegally extracted 381 megalitres of water, which was planned for use to water cotton.
Much of the case centred on whether Mr Barlow had been informed the embargo had been lifted by then NSW water minister Kevin Humphries, a claim Mr Humphries denied on the Four Corners investigation.
In the end, the judge ruled that while there was confusion over the embargo, Mr Barlow had been 'recklessly' indifferent to whether the embargo had been formally lifted.
The finding will generate further negative publicity for the cotton industry, already defending itself against claims it has been a key contributor to the lack of water in the Lower Darling River.
While Cotton Australia has been on the front foot defending the industry's water use patterns, social media has been filled with people questioning its practices