They're calling it a crime of the times. Reverend Dallas Terlich - a church minister, deputy mayor of the town of Shepparton and dedicated youth worker - long seemed the definition of an upstanding citizen. But earlier this year the respected clergyman gazed forlornly at his hundreds of dying plum trees and succumbed to temptation. Jamming a stick into a wheel that measures the use of irrigation water, he enabled the precious resource to flow onto his drought-ravished property in rural Victoria state, northeast of Melbourne. Mr Terlich's intentions might have been worthy. After all, the profits from the plums were headed for an orphanage in Myanmar. But the father of four also knew he was breaking the law, and was duly caught by water patrol officers. Last week Mr Terlich seemed suitably contrite after an appearance in court where he was ordered to pay A$903 (HK$5805) costs and donate A$500 to charity. Placed on a good behaviour bond, no conviction was recorded against the minister at the local Apostolic Church. As Mr Terlich licked his wounds, the extent of the water crisis was emphasised when residents in nearby Euroa awoke to find taps had run dry. Diminishing storage levels forced authorities to start trucking water there in March, and a tanker mix-up led to the town running out early yesterday morning. The local hospital, businesses and more than 2,000 residents were supplied with bottled water before normal service was expected to resume yesterday afternoon. In Shepparton, Mr Terlich admitted he had let voters down, but had no intention of stepping down. 'I don't think I was elected because I'm infallible, I was elected because I'm somebody people believe would try and do the best that I can for the community,' he said. 'Obviously, in this case I haven't, and I deeply regret that and I wish I hadn't done it. But unfortunately I have and the best I can do now is own up to it and say it was a stupid thing.' Mr Terlich was one of 45 people nabbed by patrols co-ordinated by Goulburn-Murray Water, a symbol of a parched region where dam levels are at historic lows, river flows are dramatically falling and severe water restrictions are in full force. Last month in Queensland - another state hit by unprecedented drought - thieves stole 12,000 litres from a rainwater tank. Russell Cooper, chief executive of Goulburn-Murray Water, said Mr Terlich was one of a small minority of irrigators who were 'effectively stealing water from their neighbours'. 'The people who do the right thing expect us to come down pretty hard on those who are doing the wrong thing, and make it clear it's not going to be tolerated,' he said.