A 97-year-old Junee woman has been hit with a massive water bill after the tap at her unoccupied property was periodically turned on for days at a time.
Helen Hillyer moved to an aged care hostel in September last year, with her Marquis Street property left unoccupied until December to allow her children time to pack up her belongings.
Given the limited use of the house in that time, Mrs Hillyer and her children were shocked when she received a $1000 water bill.
Mrs Hillyer's daughter Margaret Wright said she called supplier Goldenfields Water to investigate, and the company's data told a mysterious story.
On multiple occasions through late October and early December, records show the water being turned on early in the morning, then running constantly for several days before switching off in the evening.
"These large amounts of water are going out every few days, for a few days," Mrs Wright said. "You just have to shake your head."
"The fact is that somebody has stolen the water and that really is not right," she said.
"It's just awful someone has taken advantage of mum in this way."
Mrs Wright said a total of 407 kilolitres of water was used over the billing period, up from her mother's usual usage of about 20 kilolitres.
With several of Mrs Hillyer's children occasionally visiting the property and renovations across the street bringing a variety of different vehicles past the house, Mrs Wright said it would have been very easy for someone to pass through unnoticed by the neighbours.
"One more vehicle there wouldn't raise any eyebrows," she said.
Mrs Wright said the family did not believe they would achieve much going to the police, as identifying a culprit would be too difficult, and instead they had purchased a security fitting for the tap.
She said there was an outdoor tap located at the front of the property and she was concerned those with similar setups in Junee may also become targets for theft.
"So many of us have a tap right out front of our property," she said. "There are other people who would find it very difficult to come up with that $1000."
Goldenfields Water was contacted for comment.