A NSW Government website

Environmental water management

Managing water for the environment

Learn about the agencies and stakeholder groups involved in managing water for the environment.

Barwon River at Collarenebri

Who manages water for the environment?

In NSW, the management and delivery of water for the environment involves several state and Commonwealth agencies and stakeholder groups.

The agencies and stakeholder groups each have different roles and responsibilities.

Roles and responsibilities

Department of Planning and Environment–Water

The Department of Planning and Environment-Water is the NSW Government agency responsible for both developing and implementing rules in water sharing plans relating to water for the environment. We are also responsible for determining the volume of water available under environmental water licences through our allocations process. DPE Water also has a role in monitoring ecosystem health and monitoring and reporting on the environmental outcomes from planned environmental water. Previously NRAR’s role, the department is now responsible for issuing licences and approvals.

Department of Planning and Environment–Environment and Heritage

The Department of Planning and Environment - Environment and Heritage (DPE Environment and Heritage) is the NSW government agency responsible for managing held environmental water and some discretionary planned environmental water. The agency holds a range of water entitlements across NSW that are used to achieve environmental objectives. The agency also delivers water held by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder for environmental management.

DPE Environment and Heritage develops annual watering plans for catchments where they actively manage water for the environment (Barwon-Darling, Border Rivers, Gwydir, Intersecting Streams, Lachlan, Macquarie-Castlereagh, Murray and Lower Darling, Murrumbidgee, Namoi and Snowy and montane rivers). These plans are based on advice received from Environmental Water Advisory Groups (EWAGs). The plans priorities sites to receive for water for the environment over the coming year, factoring in catchment conditions and water availability.

DPE Environment and Heritage have also developed long term environmental water plans to meet Murray–Darling Basin Plan requirements. These plans draw on local, traditional, and scientific knowledge to guide the management of water for the environment over the longer term. These plans set objectives for 5, 10 and 20-year time frames. The plans set objectives, targets and watering requirements for key plants, waterbirds, fish, and system functions.

For more information on DPE Environment and Heritage’s role in environmental water management see how water for the environment is managed in NSW.

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder

The Commonwealth Government established the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) to purchase and manage water for the environment. The CEWH now holds the largest portfolio of water for the environment in NSW, including a range of entitlements in different licence categories across all inland New South Wales catchments.

The CEWH works with the DPE Environment and Heritage and EWAGs to plan delivery of water in use of water for the environment.

You can find information about the Commonwealth’s water holdings in each catchment. You can also find information about water for the environment actions, portfolio and planning and monitoring in each catchment at the Commonwealth's water use in catchments.

Murray–Darling Basin Authority 

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) assists with environmental watering at a whole-of-basin scale. It is responsible for developing a long-term strategy for water for the environment across the Basin. The MDBA also manage and operate the River Murray on behalf of the New South Wales, Victorian and South Australian governments.


WaterNSW is a state-owned corporation responsible for operating of the state’s river systems and bulk water supply systems, working in collaboration with MDBA in the River Murray system.

WaterNSW is responsible for releasing water for the environment from storages and providing licence holders with water transactions and information services, consistent with other water users.

Natural Resources Access Regulator

The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) is an independent regulator established under the Natural Resources Access Regulator Act 2017. NRAR enforces the water management rules across the state. While its focus is water regulation, it also enforces compliance and provides compliance education.

Department of Primary Industry–Fisheries

The Department of Primary Industry–Fisheries are responsible for managing and protect native fish populations in NSW, and therefore provide a key role in advising government agencies on environmental water matters relating to fish.

Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations 

The Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations (MLDRIN) is a confederation of sovereign First Nations from the Southern part of the Murray–Darling Basin. MLDRIN is focused on caring for our rivers and achieving water rights for Aboriginal people. MLDRIN also works with different levels of government to influence decisions on natural resource management, including environmental water management.

The MLDRIN membership group includes delegates from 25 First Nations, from as far north as the Macquarie River, in Wiradjuri Country, to the Coorong and Lower Lakes on Ngarrindjeri Country in South Australia.

Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations

The Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations (NBAN) represents 22 sovereign First Nations in the northern Murray–Darling Basin in natural resource and water management. They also provide advice on matters relating managing water for the environment.

Roles and Responsibilities Agreement

See section 8 of the Roles and Responsibilities Agreement for more information on the roles and responsibilities of NSW Government agencies in managing water for the environment.

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