A NSW Government website


Open data framework

We are committed to providing open access to relevant data, information products and data models.

Never Never River, Bellingen.

Open data framework for improved accessibility

The department's Water Group is committed to making the water sector more transparent by making our data, models, information products and publications open.

Open data means that data and information can be discovered and accessed by the public. This provides opportunities and flexibility to deliver excellent customer service and improve customer outcomes and innovation. Open access to data and information is vital for the department to build community confidence and trust.


The department's position is that all NSW water data, collected from both public and private sources, should be ‘open data’ by default. This means it is data that is publicly available and managed in accordance with the NSW Information Management Framework and relevant standards.

Moving to an open data model will contribute to the department meeting important strategic outcomes and responsibilities including:

  • NSW Water Strategy outcomes include:
    • Action 1.2: Increase the amount of and quality of publicly available information about water in NSW
    • Action 1.3: Enhance modelling capabilities and make more data and models openly available
  • Respond to the recommendations of the Chief Data Scientist and Engineer’s ‘Review of water related data collections, data infrastructure and capabilities’ (July 2020), and enable outcomes.
  • Align with the NSW Government Open Data Policy and Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) (GIPA Act). This establishes a proactive and open approach for the community to gain access to government information in NSW.

1. Purpose

This document is a framework that guides how the department will make data, information and models open and accessible to the public.

This framework applies to all forms of information, data and records created and managed by the department and is guided by the NSW Government’s Data Policies.

The outcomes this document aims to achieve are to:

  • Describe the process to facilitate the release of appropriate data.
  • Create a practical framework to simplify and help prioritise the release of high-value datasets to the community.
  • Support simple and efficient alignment with the NSW GIPA Act.

2. Principles

Table 1 outlines our principles for how we will make our data open.

Table 1. NSW Government principles of open data
Open by default Our open data will be freely available for public use under a creative commons attribution licence where appropriate. This will ensure it can be shared, re-used and redistributed.
Protected where required Data should not be released, or not released in full, when there are reasons that prevent its release. Reasons which might prevent release are outlined in section 4. Open data assessment, below.
Prioritised Frequently requested datasets should be prioritised for release based on feedback from users and the value and volume of usage.
Discoverable Data must be easily discoverable. Datasets should be supported by high quality metadata which allows the data to be found and understood.
Accessible Data should be available online with an open licence, where appropriate, that allows others to freely share, modify and reuse the data for the widest range of purposes.
Usable Data should be released in a format that makes it easy to access, use, transform and reuse. Formats should be machine-readable, that is, structured to allow automated processing.
Primary and timely Wherever possible, data should be released as collected at source, at the most granular level of detail possible, and not in aggregate or modified forms.

Data should be current and real-time where practicable if it enhances the usefulness of the data.
Well managed The data must be managed and maintained so it is trusted and authoritative.
Subject to public input and feedback Public input and feedback will help us prioritise and plan. This feedback will let us prioritise investment to improve data quality or prioritise the release of data sets to meet demand.
Documented Documentation about the format and meaning of data should be made available. Documentation should define or describe the content, quality or known issues, format or structure of a dataset, the system, location and context in which the dataset was produced, collected, processed or stored.

3. Open data process

The department has a 5-step process to guide how we will make data open and accessible on data- sharing portals and websites. The 5 steps are outlined below with full details on the activities required described in our Open Data Process Guide:

  1. Identify, define and prioritise

    The NSW Government Open Data Policy calls for data to be identified, documented and collected in ways that support downstream processing and release.

  2. Assess data and complete checklist

    Data can be made open where the data is assessed to have either no risks or accepted risks, and once the appropriate steps, activities are completed, and roles and responsibilities are assigned.

  3. Approve or protect

    An appropriate approval is required to publish a dataset as open data or have it protected. The responsibility for this approval can be assigned to an appropriate delegate or the Publication, Disclosure and Open Data Committee outlined in section 5.

  4. Release open data

    Data that is assessed as appropriate for the release can be made open once appropriate metadata is captured, and data quality statements and licences are applied. Data will be released on the Sharing and Enabling Environmental Data (SEED) portal and other publicly available data sharing portals and websites.

  5. Maintain and administer
  6. Data published as open data may change over time and datasets should be monitored for changes. The role of maintaining and administering the data into the future is to be allocated when the data is made open.

This 5-step process will ensure that data is made open in a prioritised, effective way, while managing related risks.

4. Open data assessment

The department will assess if data should not be released, or not released in full, where there are risks that relate to:

  • Privacy
  • Ownership and legal rights
  • Information security and technical enablement (technology and services required to support the release of the data)
  • Confidentiality and market sensitivity
  • Public interest

It may be necessary to remove personal or identifying information from datasets in line with the NSW GIPA Act, the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW) or other applicable legislation.

We may decide to release data where there are risks, if doing so does not breach our legal obligations and it is in the public interest to do so.

5. Accountabilities

Publication, disclosure and Open Data Committee

The Publication, Disclosure and Open Data Committee has been established to provide operational oversight of the Open Data Framework and ensure open data is released appropriately.

The committee has authority to determine and assess the risks identified in the Open data checklist and approve the open release of data or protect the data as required.


The responsibilities of the committee include:

  1. Ensuring open data practices and procedures are appropriately applied.
  2. Acting as an escalation path for risks and issues relating to open data and disclosure of information.
  3. Approving open data checklists and the release of data.
  4. Protecting data and preventing its release when required.
  5. Providing oversight of the Open Data Framework and regular performance reporting.
  6. Providing oversight of the Publication and Disclosure Guideline.
  7. Prioritising the inventory (backlog) of datasets to be made open.
  8. Identifying training needs to ensure staff collect and manage data so that it can be made open in the future.

The committee will be responsible for ensuring the department’s data becomes open, and driving supporting activities which enable this.

6. Framework performance, reporting and review

We will review and report on our implementation of this policy on a quarterly basis.

There is a target of a 5% per quarter increase of new open datasets made available. Performance against the target will be monitored by the Publication, Disclosure and Open Data Committee. The target will be reviewed annually.

Contact us

For additional information contact water.dataproducts@dpie.nsw.gov.au