A NSW Government website

Our water, our future

The NSW Water Strategy will prepare NSW for the future

The NSW Water Strategy is the first 20-year water strategy for all of NSW, and it will put water on the same footing as other essential state resources and services, such as transport.

The NSW Water Strategy will tackle the key challenges and opportunities for water management and service delivery across the whole of the state and set the strategic direction for water service delivery and resource management in NSW over the long-term. It will:

  • set high level objectives and principles to guide water service delivery and management across NSW
  • build on the progress made from previous reforms and set the direction to keep improving
  • identify key challenges, opportunities, strategic priorities and actions for the whole of NSW
  • clearly articulate the water management and service delivery framework and policy context for NSW, including how the Murray- Darling Basin Plan and state-wide, regional, metropolitan and local strategic water policy and planning frameworks work together.
Figure 1. What the NSW Water Strategy will do

NSW Water Strategy

Decision-making and investment

Knowledge and confidence

Collaboration and integration

Inform decision-making and investment, and increase confidence in strategic planning for the water sector, key water- dependent sectors and the environment.

Build knowledge and confidence in the community about how water is managed and help to inform long-term business and investment decisions, and environmental outcomes.

Bring together and integrate effort across the water sector towards common goals and to address common challenges, with a particular focus on risk reduction in regional NSW.

A comprehensive set of integrated water strategies for NSW

The NSW Water Strategy is part of a suite of long-term strategies being developed by the NSW Government to maintain the resilience of the state’s water services and resources over the coming decades. This state-wide, high-level strategy works in tandem with 12 regional water strategies and two metropolitan water strategies, the Greater Sydney Water Strategy and the Lower Hunter Water Security Plan.

These strategies will set the direction for and inform the best mix of water-related policy, planning and infrastructure investment decisions over the next 20 to 40 years. They aim to balance different and changing water needs and make sure that households, businesses, towns and cities, communities and the environment have access to the right amount of water for the right purpose at the right times. Building on the NSW Government’s record of action and reform in water management, these strategies bring together all the knowledge, tools, experience and solutions we have - and apply the best and latest evidence - to use and share our water wisely, responsibly and sustainably into the future.

Additionally, the development of an Aboriginal Water Strategy and Groundwater Strategy are key actions from the NSW Water Strategy that will apply state-wide and complement these place-based strategies.

The NSW Water Strategy and the regional and metropolitan water strategies do not replace statutory instruments (such as water sharing plans). They set the agenda for water management and service delivery into the future and are designed to contribute to water management outcomes aligned with the objects and principles of the Water Management Act 2000, the NSW Government’s priorities and NSW’s commitments under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, the National Water Initiative, and other commitments such as the Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan.

The NSW Water Strategy and the regional and metropolitan water strategies are being developed in parallel (Figure 2). This allows us to make sure there is alignment between the overall state-level priorities in the NSW Water Strategy and the place-based solutions being developed for each region. It also allows the NSW Water Strategy to be informed by the evidence and examples that are emerging through our work with communities at the regional level.

How the NSW Water Strategy and regional and metropolitan water strategies interact
Figure 2. How the NSW Water Strategy and regional and metropolitan water strategies interact

Regional water strategies

Twelve new regional water strategies are being developed by the NSW Government that will bring together the best and latest climate evidence with a wide range of tools and solutions to plan and manage the water needs in each NSW region over the coming decades. The strategies look out over the next 20 to 40 years and determine how much water a region will need to meet future demand, the challenges and choices involved in meeting those needs and the actions available to manage risks to water availability. The strategies will aim to balance different water needs, inform investment decisions, and deliver the right amount of water, of the right quality for the right purpose at the right times.

Regional water strategies will set out a long- term ‘roadmap’ of actions to deliver five objectives:

  1. Deliver and manage water for local communities - improve water security, water quality and flood management for regional towns and communities
  2. Enable economic prosperity - improve water access reliability for regional industries
  3. Recognise and protect Aboriginal water rights, interests and cultural values— including Aboriginal heritage assets
  4. Protect and enhance the environment - improve the health and integrity of the environmental systems and assets, including by improving water quality
  5. Affordability - identify least cost policy and infrastructure options.

The regional water strategies are being developed in stages, with the aim of having a final strategy in each region by the end of 2022. Each strategy will go on public exhibition with opportunities for feedback and discussion. The final strategy for each region will include a final package of actions approved by the NSW Government and a plan for implementation with clear time frames and defined roles and responsibilities for delivering each action.

Metropolitan water strategies

The Greater Sydney Water Strategy will replace the existing Metropolitan Water Plan 2017 and provide confidence in the security of Greater Sydney’s water supply to 2040 to support economic growth, environmental protection and community wellbeing. It will support delivery of the Greater Sydney Regional Plan and identify the best value and most affordable investment pathways for water infrastructure decisions. It will be based on an integrated water cycle management approach, consistent with the National Water Initiative, and identify any policy or regulatory changes required for implementation.

Development of the Greater Sydney Water Strategy is being guided by customer feedback, with public exhibition and consultation planned for the third quarter in 2021.

The Lower Hunter Water Security Plan will also be consistent with the National Water Initiative and will include a portfolio of supply and demand measures to ensure there is enough water to supply homes, businesses and industry in the region for the future and during drought. The Lower Hunter Water Security Plan is being developed with customer feedback and was released for public exhibition in August 2021.

Map of NSW water strategy regions
Figure 3. Map of NSW water strategy regions

The department is working with other state agencies and local government to ensure the water strategies align with key NSW economic, infrastructure and land use strategies, plans and programs shown in Figure 4 including the:

All water strategies are also being informed by key reports including the Australian Government Productivity Commission’s draft report on National Water Reform, the ACCC’s Murray- Darling Basin water markets inquiry, and the NSW Productivity Commission’s Productivity Green Paper.

A set of common planning assumptions underpins all of these plans and strategies. This coordinated governance will make sure that water policy and investment decisions are robust, complementary and fully integrated with other plans.

Figure 4. Key NSW strategic plans and common planning assumptions

Vision for NSW

and regional

Future Transport Strategy 2056

State Infrastructure Strategy 2018-2038

Regional Plans
Nine regions of NSW
NSW 2040

Common planning assumptions

Population, demography, housing, employment, climate, fiscal and economic forecasts

Source: Infrastructure NSW, State Infrastructure Strategy 2018-2038, adapted by Department of Planning, Industry and Environment

Integrated water cycle management strategies

Local water utilities are responsible for undertaking long-term strategic town water services planning for their communities. This includes setting service and investment priorities with reference to state and regional water strategies. An integrated water cycle management strategy is a 30-year plan developed by local water utilities that identifies  an integrated water, sewerage and stormwater supply scenario that provides the best value for money on the basis of social, environmental and economic considerations. Figure 5 shows the relationship between all water strategies and plans, and how they work together to form the water policy and planning context for NSW.

The National Water Initiative

NSW is committed to implementation of the National Water Initiative, which is the national blueprint for water reform agreed by the Council of Australian Governments in 2004.

Under the National Water Initiative, governments commit to:

  • prepare comprehensive water plans
  • achieve sustainable water use in overallocated or stressed water systems
  • introduce registers of water rights and standards for water accounting
  • expand trade in water rights
  • improve pricing for water storage and delivery
  • better manage urban water demands.

The National Water Initiative is informing the development of NSW’s regional and metropolitan water strategies.

Figure 5. NSW water policy and planning context


National Water Initiative

Water Act 2007

Basin Plan and Murray-Darling Basin Agreement
(for Basin Plan regions)

Water resource plans

Long term

Water quality



NSW Water Strategy

Water Strategies

How we share
water and operate the system:

  • Water Management
    Act 2000
    subordinate regulation
  • Water sharing plans
  • Available water

Such as dams,
weirs, pumps,
pipes, channels
and bores

Water use and
water user

How people,
use water

water manager strategies

integrate and
deliver existing
reforms and


Regional town water strategies

Integrated water cycle management strategies

Safe and Secure Water Program