A NSW Government website

Allocations and availability

Drought, floods and extreme events

We play a critical role in managing, allocating and protecting the water resources of NSW during extreme events.

Wetlands Sunset, Mid Murray River.

Drought management

Drought is a fundamental part of the Australian landscape. With one of the most variable rainfall climates in the world, severe drought affects some part of Australia about once every 18 years. Time between severe droughts have varied from four to 38 years and the impacts of climate change will mean longer dry periods, particularly in inland areas of NSW.

The department plays a vital role in managing, allocating and protecting the water resources of NSW. This is especially important during extreme events such as droughts or poor water quality events.

As a drought becomes more severe, the available water is managed to prioritise critical human water needs and in accordance with NSW water sharing priorities. The department works in partnership with local water utilities in regional NSW to manage town water supplies during drought.

The Minister may also restrict the use of surface or groundwater (by order under section 324 of the Water Management Act 2000) to cope with a water shortage or threat to public health or safety.

Drought recovery

During 2017 to 2020, large areas of NSW faced severe water shortages. Between January 2017 and December 2019, NSW temperatures were the warmest and rainfall was the lowest on record. Find out more about our drought recovery actions.

Extreme events

The NSW Government has developed an extreme events policy (PDF, 974.16 KB) and incident response guides for all surface and groundwaters in the Murray Darling Basin. The guides are included in each of the water resource plans as they are placed on public exhibition.

Find out more about extreme events

Cleaning up dead fish in river

Information and updates on the ongoing monitoring and management of fish deaths in the Lower Darling-Baaka River at Menindee and downstream.

Dead fish in the river at Menindee

Find information about blackwater including water quality stages, dissolved oxygen water quality updates and details on historic blackwater events.

Flood management

Water availability during high flows or flood

During periods of high flow, water is shared in accordance with the water sharing plan.

In the case of very high and flood flows, WaterNSW works with the State Emergency Service to manage flows and provide timely information to affected communities.

For more information visit our water sharing plans and floodplain harvesting pages.

Monitoring water during flood

Collecting and sharing data plays an important role in day-to-day water management activities across the state. During flood events this role becomes even more critical for flood forecasting and flood management.

WaterNSW manages over 700 telemetered water monitoring sites. This network is a critical element in decision making by key agencies such as Bureau of Meteorology and the State Emergency Services.

Learn more about WaterNSW water monitoring.