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:
- Deliver and manage water for local communities - improve water security, water quality and flood management for regional towns and communities
- Enable economic prosperity - improve water access reliability for regional industries
- Recognise and protect Aboriginal water rights, interests and cultural values— including Aboriginal heritage assets
- Protect and enhance the environment - improve the health and integrity of the environmental systems and assets, including by improving water quality
- 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.
The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment 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:
- NSW State Infrastructure Strategy 2018-2038
- Nine Regional Plans 2017
- NSW Regional Development Framework
- 2019 NSW 2040 Economic Blueprint
- Greater Sydney Region Plan 2018
- Future Transport Strategy 2056
- Marine Estate Management Strategy 2018-2028
- NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap
- 20-year Economic Vision for Regional NSW.
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.
Future Transport Strategy 2056
State Infrastructure Strategy 2018-2038
Nine regions of NSW
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.
National Water Initiative
Water Act 2007
Basin Plan and Murray-Darling Basin Agreement
Water resource plans
NSW Water Strategy
Water use and
Regional town water strategies
Integrated water cycle management strategies
Safe and Secure Water Program