A NSW Government website

Sharing and managing our water

We need to do more with less to support economic growth

The NSW 2040 Economic Blueprint sets the direction for NSW’s ongoing success in a changing world, highlighting major opportunities to grow industries, develop innovative and world class businesses and improve the state’s economy.

The Blueprint focuses on maximising the economic and employment potential of fast growing, high tech and service industries, and on the state’s five major urban centres of Newcastle, Wollongong and Greater Sydney’s three cities (the Eastern Harbour City, the Central River City and the Western Parkland City). But it also targets productive and vibrant regions, including an agricultural industry that will supply the growing middle class in Asia - with NSW aspiring to be ‘Asia’s delicatessen’ and a trusted source of high quality, high-value products.

The Blueprint recognises the importance of secure and sustainable water supplies to support existing industries such as agriculture, tourism, mining and energy and to encourage investment and growth in new industries. Economic growth will also be stimulated by government-led initiatives such as Special Activation Precincts that have been identified to become thriving business hubs in regional NSW.

The NSW Productivity Commission White Paper (2021) highlights many of the key challenges facing the water sector. It notes the risk that traditional rainfall-dependent water supply will become less reliable as demand pressures grow, and that the combination of population growth, changing climate and ageing infrastructure will test the water sector’s ability to meet the evolving water needs of NSW. It called on government to respond to these challenges to ensure our water services continue to support productivity growth and that NSW continues to be an attractive place to live and do business.

Access to water is essential to achieving the aspirations set out in the Blueprint and to driving - and benefiting from - sustained future economic growth in NSW. But we will need to be smart in how we use water within the system’s limits. As we seek greater productivity from our available water resources within sustainable extraction limits, this thinking of ‘doing more with less’ will need to inform how we manage, plan for and use water.

In particular, we will need to:

  • keep up with global commodity markets - there is increasing competition for water within a capped system. Many regional economies are highly reliant on the export of food, energy and resources. As demand for these exports increases and new markets emerge, regions will need to be resilient and adaptable to changed conditions to increase the productivity and efficiency of limited water resources
  • explore opportunities from technology and data analytics - innovation and research are critical to improving the productivity of water. Advances in science and technology will create opportunities for innovation in water supply, treating and transporting water, water use efficiency and wastewater and stormwater re-use. There will also be significant advances in metering, modelling and monitoring that government can use as an evidence base for decision-making and the deployment of more sophisticated compliance strategies
  • seek shared benefits - there are opportunities to achieve shared benefits from water delivery and maximising outcomes when water is used. Currently, water is ordered by users for a single purpose, such as irrigation orders, bulk water transfers and environmental flows. These events provide an opportunity to generate shared outcomes, but this will require planning and cooperation between government, water users and stakeholders, including Aboriginal communities. There are also options to generate shared benefits in other areas, such as energy recovery from wastewater management.

The figure below shows the high-level approaches NSW needs to take to do more with less and make our water resources go further in a future with a more variable and changing climate.

Figure 9. Doing more with less: high-level approaches

Drive changes in water use and behaviour to make NSW
more water efficient and ensure water is supporting
the highest value uses

  • Reduce leakage
  • Increase water use efficiency
  • Increase water productivity
  • Be open to innovative approaches and new technologies
  • Better information to support innovation in the market

Improve capacity across NSW to cope with
climate variability and change

  • Expand rainfall independent water sources
  • Adopt recycling for supply augmentation
  • Integrated land and water management
  • Be better prepared for future drought
  • Adaptive frameworks for allocating water

Invest in appropriate and affordable infrastructure

  • Consider consumptive and environmental needs
  • Take adaptive and modular approaches
  • Ensure cost-effective investments
  • Apply technology enabled monitoring and control
  • Address asset interdependencies and redundancy