A NSW Government website

Town Water Risk Reduction Program

Facilitate greater state government support

We are facilitating access to capacity and capabilities within the NSW Government.

Drone Main Weir Menindee, March 2020.

We are exploring how town water risks related to scale, remoteness, and skills shortages can be reduced by enabling local water utilities to access the capacity and capabilities of State Government entities more effectively, including agencies and State-Owned Corporations.

Focus area

This focus area is divided into two streams of work:

  1. Enhance the support available to local water utilities to manage incidents and emergencies. This was identified as a priority workstream by the TWRRP Stakeholder Advisory Panel
  2. Identify and pilot new models for State Government entities to help local water utilities address their priority risks, where these entities are uniquely placed to provide support.

Managing incidents and emergencies

We have worked with the local water utilities sector to prioritise high-level areas for improving incident management support to local water utilities.

The two areas that emerged as the highest priority areas were:

  • Strengthening support for local water utilities to develop more robust incident management plans, and to exercise these more frequently.
  • Exploring options to enhance or expand the support available to help the most resource-constrained utilities to respond to incidents.

The program team established a small volunteer focus team comprised of experienced sector stakeholders selected in consultation with the program’s stakeholder advisory panel.

The department worked in partnership with the focus team to develop an incident management framework and guidance to support local water utilities in better managing risks. The framework presents a set of outcomes and actions for local water utilities. drawing on several existing requirements in NSW Government policy and legislation for incident and emergency management. Water utilities are encouraged to use this document as a tool to review existing incident management arrangements, identify gaps and plan for future improvements.


The Incident and emergency management for local water utilities: Management Framework and guidance aims to guide local water utilities in their development of specific incident management plans, using a risk-based and outcomes-focused approach.

Download the framework and guidance (PDF. 1.6MB)

State Government support to reduce risks

In 2021, we engaged with our stakeholders to identify the areas where they saw the most opportunity to reduce local water utility risks by expanding or enhancing in-kind support from NSW Government entities.

A number of interested local water utilities nominated opportunities that they considered WaterNSW would be best placed to lead, including dam safety, catchment management and raw water quality, and river operations.

Following this a number of pilots were scoped with interested councils and WaterNSW.

The pilots were delivered in 2022. Information about the scope, location and progress of the pilots is set out below.

Dam safety pilot

Participating councilsClarence Valley Council, Orange City Council and Tamworth Regional Councils

Identify and develop strategies and specific, achievable time-based plans to improve regional local water utility dam safety compliance and asset risk management performance.

WaterNSW used its dam safety expertise to support local water utilities with dam safety management.

Progress to date

WaterNSW conducted surveys to assess the ‘maturity’ level across the dam safety activities undertaken by each council.  This was evaluated against an internationally applied benchmarking system for dam owner safety management systems.

Site visits conducted to all councils between late April and early May 2022 (to understand where the councils were placed with regard to key compliance issues).

WaterNSW has provided each council with a summary report identifying gaps in each council’s existing systems and key priorities for the councils to consider.

WaterNSW has met with participating councils to work through summary reports.

Next steps

The Town Water Risk Reduction Program evaluated the dam safety pilot. The evaluation report found that the pilot successfully built increased dam safety capacity in the participating councils, through improved understanding of dam safety risks, agreed strategies for councils to address their risks and non-compliances with dam safety regulations, and by increasing utilities’ decision-makers’ understanding of dam safety.

Integrated systems operator pilot

Participating councilsHay Shire Council and Murrumbidgee Council

Explore if there is an opportunity for State-Owned Corporations to support local water utility bulk water operations to better:

  • integrate water quantity and quality outcomes
  • align monitoring and risk mitigation operations during routine, incident and drought conditions
  • improve access to timely information, data and alerts regarding water quality challenges, reducing the degree of reaction and response to feedback from customers, and
  • align local water utility strategic planning on a catchment/valley basis.

WaterNSW engaged with the councils and key stakeholders to develop a concept raw water based operations strategy and drought response plan for each council, and develop drought management and operational plans in partnership with each council.

Progress to date

The pilot commenced in May 2022. WaterNSW conducted extensive data gathering in consultation with the councils and other key stakeholders including NSW Health.

WaterNSW conducted a site visit to Hay in late May and to Jerilderie (Murrumbidgee Council) on 15 June.

Risk identification workshops were held for each council in Jerilderie on 16 June

A draft report was provided to the councils in late July and final report in October 2022.

Next steps

The Town Water Risk Reduction Program is undertaking the evaluation of this pilot, an evaluation report will be available in December 2022.

Catchment management pilot

An additional pilot is also being scoped with WaterNSW and Tweed Shire Council to explore opportunities for WaterNSW to support the Council with catchment management and raw water supply challenges.

WaterNSW is working with the Council to identify opportunities to adopt or adapt the systems, tools and capability it currently uses in Greater Sydney in relation to catchment management.

This pilot is expected to commence in September 2022 and will be delivered and evaluated by December 2022.