Hundreds of megalitres of precious water has been wasted after vandals tampered with a channel regulator in the Barmah Forest recently.
Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority chief executive officer Chris Norman said the unauthorised flow was sitting in a wetland in the forest when it should have continued its journey along the Murray River.
“All the water being delivered down the Murray River is destined for a customer,” Mr Norman said.
“Now that might be for the environment in South Australia but it’s more likely headed for an irrigator in between.”
Mr Norman said the vandalism had resulted in a "disgraceful waste of water".
“We are in a drought and that water was supposed to be delivered to its rightful owner,” he said.
It was discovered last week that one of the bays along Big Woodcutter Creek had been opened all the way.
“We’re not sure how long it had been open, but it could have been as long as seven days,” Mr Norman said.
He described the behaviour as reckless and irresponsible.
“While this won’t impact farmers’ water rights it will have an adverse impact on the system’s delivery.
“It’s accounted for as a loss in the delivery, which ultimately means there’s less water in the dam.”
Mr Norman said it was unlikely the vandalism was carried out by bored campers or mischievous teenagers.
“The extent to which the bay was open would indicate it was tampered with by someone who knew what they were doing.
“It’s not easy to open a regulator, especially because there are no handles on the cranks and they are locked with sturdy padlocks.
“It says to me those responsible were determined to have an impact.”
Goulburn Broken CMA and Parks Victoria will conduct regular inspections of the regulators over coming months.