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National Water Account 2016

Sydney: Water management

Water management areas exist for surface water and groundwater resources across the Sydney region. Water sharing plans have been developed for rivers and groundwater systems across New South Wales following the introduction of the Water Management Act 2000 (NSW). Water sharing plans applicable to the region are Greater Metropolitan Region Unregulated River Water Sources, Kangaroo River Water Source and Greater Metropolitan Region Groundwater Sources. These plans establish rules for sharing water between different types of water use such as town supply, rural domestic supply, stock watering, industry and irrigation and ensures that water is provided for the health of the system.

 

Surface water and groundwater management

Water legislation

Water management in the Sydney region is governed by the Water Management Act 2000 (NSW). It replaces the Water Act 1912 (NSW), which is being phased out, although some provisions of the Water Act 1912 remain in place.

The other three legislative instruments directly related to water management activities in the Sydney region are:

  1. Sydney Water Catchment Management Act 1998 (NSW), which governs the roles and responsibilities of WaterNSW (former Sydney Catchment Authority)
  2. Sydney Water Act 1994 (NSW), which governs the roles and responsibilities of Sydney Water
  3. Energy and Utilities Administration Act 1987 (NSW), which governs water savings action plan initiatives.

The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries-Water (DPI Water) is responsible for managing surface water and groundwater resources in the State, including:

  • water planning, licensing and trading in the region
  • policy and regulation of local water utilities.

See the DPI Water website for more information on water access licences and their categories.

 

Water management plans

The water sharing plans implemented under the Water Management Act 2000 define entitlements that were in place at the commencement of the plan, categories of water access licences and management rules for sharing the water between environmental needs and the needs of the user over a 10-year period. It also sets rules for the trading of water licences and annual water allocations. After ten years, the water sharing plans are reviewed, revised and reinstated.

Surface water management plans

Water sharing plans that are applicable in the Sydney region include the Water Sharing Plan for the Greater Metropolitan Region Unregulated River Water Sources 2011 (NSW Office of Water 2011a), which commenced on 1 July 2011, and the Water Sharing Plan for the Kangaroo River Water Source 2003 (NSW Office of Water 2014), which commenced on 1 July 2004.

Groundwater management plans

The Water Sharing Plan for the Greater Metropolitan Region Groundwater Sources (NSW Office of Water 2011b) defines the rules for managing the groundwater resource in the Sydney region. This plan was commenced on 1 July 2011.

 

Environmental water management

Environmental water legislation

The Water Management Act 2000 guides the management of all water resources in the Sydney region and makes provisions for the environmental health of the Sydney region's rivers and groundwater systems through two main systems: planned environmental water and adaptive environmental water.

Planned environmental water is prescribed under the rules of a water sharing plan. Adaptive environmental water allows water to be taken and used for the environment under specific conditions set out in water access licences.

Licences are issued by DPI Water. The regulating authority overseeing environmental flow management in the Sydney region is the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

 

Environmental water provisions

Environmental water provisions are specified in the water sharing plans by either protecting a proportion of water for the purpose of fundamental ecosystem health and/or specific environmental rules (planned environmental water), or by allowing licensed water to be committed for environmental purposes (adaptive environmental water). The specifics of these adaptive environmental provisions are diverse and dependent upon where a licence is located. Specific flow rules are specified in the water licences issued to water utilities or to water management authorities that release water for environmental purposes.

The water sharing plans for unregulated rivers may include rules that:

  • require a visible flow at licensed pump sites or other locations before water users can extract water; this is a minimum level of environmental protection that is specified in all plans
  • introduce a 'cease to pump' condition when river flows drop below a specified level for licensed users
  • set daily limits on extraction for different flows (low, medium and high flows) where there are a high number of extractors or there is a high level of environmental protection required
  • recognise that some alluvial aquifers are highly connected to their parent streams, and in these circumstances the goal of water sharing rules is to manage the surface water and highly connected groundwater as one resource.

Water sharing rules to protect ecosystems that depend on groundwater include an overall annual limit on extractions.

The groundwater plans provide rules that:

  • reserve the storage component of the aquifer
  • protect a proportion of the natural recharge (i.e. the volume of rainfall or streamflow that naturally infiltrates into a groundwater system)
  • refine recharge estimates and, if necessary, reduce entitlements in those systems that are over-allocated
  • set distance limits between any new bores and groundwater dependent ecosystems.

More details about the status of current environmental water management arrangements covering the Sydney region can be found on the DPI Water website.

Specific environmental flows in the region can be found in the Environmental benefit section of the 'Water access and use' note.

 

Cultural water management

The DPI Water established the Aboriginal Water Initiative in June 2012 (NSW Office of Water 2013) to improve Aboriginal involvement and representation in water planning and management within NSW. The programme allows DPI Water to monitor success of water sharing plans in meeting their statutory requirements for Aboriginal specific performance indicators, including:

  • providing water for native title rights
  • recognising spiritual, social, customary and economic values of water to Aboriginal people.

Engagement with Aboriginal communities will assist with achieving requirements of the Water Management Act 2000 in relation to monitoring and reviewing water sharing plans for:

  • Aboriginal water access licences for cultural purposes
  • water for economic development of Aboriginal communities
  • flow rules to protect Aboriginal cultural values dependent on water.

 

Organisations responsible for water management

The Sydney region contains a number of organisations that take part in managing and distributing water in the region.

WaterNSW is the bulk water supplier and diverts water to the major utility (Sydney Water Corporation), local utilities (Goulburn Mulwaree Council, Shoalhaven City Council and Wingecarribee Shire Council) and other retail customers in the region. In addition, several water utlities divert surface water from water sources based on their water access entitlements.

The boundaries of the Sydney Water Corporation and WaterNSW with the Sydney region can be seen in Figure R9.

 

Figure R9 Boundaries of Sydney Water Corporation and WaterNSW within the Sydney region
Figure R9 Boundaries of Sydney Water Corporation and WaterNSW within the Sydney region
 

 

Table R1 lists the organisations responsible for water management and their specific roles within the Sydney region.

 

Table R1 Organisations and utilities responsible for water management activities within the Sydney region
OrganisationResponsibilityStorages operated within the region
Energy Australia
  • water supply for power generation (coal)
  • reservoir manager
  • infrastructure operator
  • environmental and riparian flow manager
  • Lake Lyell
  • Lake Wallace 
  • Thomsons Creek
Eraring Energy
  • water supply for power generation (hydro-power)
  • infrastructure operator
n/a
Goulburn Mulwaree Council
  • retail urban utility
  • reservoir manager
  • infrastructure operator
  • wastewater system operator
  • Pejar
  • Sooley
Hawkesbury–Nepean Catchment Management Authority
  • natural resources management
  • development and implementation of river health strategies
n/a
Lithgow City Council
  • retail urban utility
  • reservoir manager
  • infrastructure operator
  • wastewater system operator
  • Farmers Creek No. 2
New South Wales Office of the Environment and Heritage (within the New South Wales Department of the Premier and Cabinet)
  • overseeing environmental water management
  • advising on water quality, water pollution and treatment
  • supporting wetland conservation and management
  • securing water for the environment through planning mechanisms, water purchase and water-efficient infrastructure
n/a
DPI Water (formerly New South Wales Office of Water)
  • water licensing and compliance including issuing of individual user licences and monitoring of usage
  • water planning and implementation of interstate programmes
  • surface water and groundwater management
  • water information and modelling
  • science and evaluation
  • policy and regulation of local water utilities
  • provision of legal advice on water matters to the government.
n/a
Queanbeyan–Palerang Regional Council
  • retail urban utility
  • infrastructure operator
  • wastewater system operator
n/a
Shoalhaven City Council

  • retail urban utility
  • reservoir manager
  • infrastructure operator
  • wastewater system operator
  • Bamarang
  • Danjera
  • Flat Rock Creek
WaterNSW (formerly Sydney Catchment Authority)
  • bulk water supply
  • storage manager
  • infrastructure operator
  • environmental and riparian flow manager
  • catchment management, including:
    • surety that new developments in the drinking water catchments have a neutral and beneficial effect on water quality
    • grants and incentives to improve land management and wastewater management
    • community education initiatives
  • Avon
  • Blue Mountains storages (Medlow, Greaves Creek, Upper Cascade, Middle Cascade and Lower Cascade)
  • Cataract
  • Cordeaux
  • Fitzroy Falls
  • Lake Burragorang (Warragamba)
  • Lake Yarrunga (Tallowa)
  • Nepean
  • Prospect
  • Wingecarribee
  • Woronora
Local Land Services
  • natural resources management
  • development and implementation of river health strategies
n/a
Sydney Water Corporation
  • retail urban utility
  • infrastructure operator
  • wastewater system operator
n/a
Wingecarribee Shire Council
  • retail urban utility
  • reservoir manager
  • infrastructure operator
  • wastewater system operator
  • Bundanoon
  • Medway