A NSW Government website

The Strategy

Our water, our future

Water is our most precious and valuable resource. The NSW Government is taking action to improve the security, reliability, quality and resilience of the State’s water resources, while improving our landscapes and river health. We are committed to ensuring that communities in regional and metropolitan NSW have the water they need to thrive, grow and enjoy - now and for future generations.

We know how vital water is

Across NSW - from our smallest towns to our big cities, from our coasts to mountains and outback - people, communities and businesses know how vital water is to our way of life and wellbeing.

Every person in NSW has a right to expect access to safe drinking water for use at home and water security in their communities to sustain job creating businesses and healthy natural environments. This is particularly important for regional NSW, where economies are often built on water essential industries such as agriculture, food processing and manufacturing, resources and tourism.

Our rivers, creeks, wetlands, floodplains, estuaries and groundwater sources support almost every aspect of our daily lives: from the water we drink and use in our homes to water for crops and activities that support our industries and economy. They are also vital environmental assets, sustaining natural ecosystems and habitats that not only support our unique flora and fauna, but also help to make our lives healthier and more productive and our communities more attractive and amenable places to live.

Water is also at the heart of Aboriginal people’s connection to Country and culture, and First Nations are acknowledged as the traditional custodians of all of NSW’s water resources. First Nations and Aboriginal people have rights and a moral obligation to care for water under their law and customs.

Like many places around the world, our water resources are coming under increasing pressure from a combination of population growth, changing industry and community needs and a more variable and changing climate. In NSW, we have also been dealing with an extended period of severe drought, followed by severe flooding in some places.

Wherever we live in NSW, we all know the value of clean, safe and healthy water resources - and their importance to the future of our communities and our state. To secure our water future, we need to work together and start preparing now for the challenges ahead.

We have reformed how we manage water in NSW - but there is more to do

The NSW Government has put in place plans for sharing water and established clear water rights and a market for trading these rights. These reforms provide for the sustainable, equitable and efficient allocation of water and for achieving better economic, cultural, social and environmental outcomes.

But the recent drought, which followed on quickly from the Millennium Drought, exposed vulnerabilities in regional and metropolitan water services that we cannot ignore. Addressing and minimising future water service risks to NSW communities requires some fundamental changes in thinking about how we access, manage and use water. We need to ensure that we have the right organisational arrangements in place to lift the performance of the water sector across NSW to ensure high-quality water service delivery for the critical needs of communities and the environment, and to improve our resilience to extreme events including drought, bushfires and flooding.

This includes managing our landscapes and catchments better to keep water in the landscape, improve the health of our river and groundwater systems, manage flood risk and improve community and industry resilience to drought. This means working with communities on land management initiatives to support sustainable land use practices that harness the knowledge of local people.

We also need to improve how we plan for water in the landscape and manage the impacts of flooding through flood risk management, emergency management and land use planning to mitigate the impacts of floods on lives and livelihoods.

We need to be thinking longer term. We need to prepare now for a future where water sources and services may come under even greater stress. We need to use the knowledge we have gained during recent droughts and floods to find smarter, better ways of managing our water resources for the environment and improving water service delivery to communities. We need to make decisions now about how, where and when to direct water-related investment and infrastructure.

While we can’t predict the future, we can develop plans to achieve our objectives that are flexible and can adapt to future uncertainties. We can do this by contemplating how robust our plans may be under a range of plausible future scenarios.