NSW Government's Water Reform Action Plan

Water is one of our most valuable natural assets. The NSW Government has developed a Water Reform Action Plan to ensure that

  • we deliver on our responsibility to the people of NSW
  • we have an equitable and transparent approach to the management of our water for future generations.

NSW remains committed to the Murray Darling Basin Plan and ensuring it is delivered in a way that balances economic, environmental and socio-economic concerns.

Community consultation

As part of the water reforms being introduced, the NSW Government has released consultation papers for community feedback on:

For more information, read the NSW Water Reform Action Plan consultation overview, Implementing the NSW Floodplain Harvesting Policy fact sheet and Water reform presentation.

Download Find out more about our community consultation.

Draft Exposure Bill

To support the implementation of the Water Reform Action Plan and the options proposed in the consultation papers, amendments will be required to the Water Management Act 2000 and Natural Resources Access Regulator Act 2017.

The NSW Government has released an Exposure Bill, the draft Water Management Amendment Bill 2018, as an example of the mechanisms that could be enacted to enable key elements of the reform. The Bill that will be introduced into Parliament later this year will reflect the final policy positions that are developed following your input to the consultation papers listed above. Some policy elements will be enabled in the regulations that will be developed after the Bill has been considered by Parliament.

This fact sheet accompanies the Exposure Bill and should be read in conjunction with the consultation papers listed above. Your feedback on the options proposed in the consultation papers will help shape the final Bill that will be introduced into Parliament.

Our water goals and what we are doing

The NSW Government’s four key goals flow from recommendations made in the interim and final Matthews reports into water management and compliance in NSW.

Our water goals in NSW: Introduce best practice for water management, Ensure transparency in how we share, alloated and manage water, Build a compliance and enforcement regime that ensures strong and certain regulation, Build capability to support implementation of water reforms

A new resources access regulator

We have established a new, independent regulatory body to oversee the compliance and enforcement of NSW water law in the state. The NSW Natural Resources Access Regulator will be led by a board appointed by the minister. The board will have a range of strategic and operational compliance and enforcement functions, including determining whether or not to prosecute serious regulatory breaches.

The regulator will be responsible for adopting and implementing new monitoring and compliance techniques and technologies such as remote sensing of crop growth and water holdings, back-to-base and remote meter reading and telemetry, and targeted covert operations.

Disallowance of Basin Plan amendments

On 14 February 2018,  the Australian Senate disallowed the Basin Plan amendments that would have implemented the Northern Basin Review.

The Basin Plan provided an agreed way forward to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Murray Darling Basin and the communities that it supports. The Northern Basin Review was an integral part of the plan that was agreed by all states and both sides of politics, and unless it is included, the NSW Government considers the Basin Plan, and its participation in it, to be untenable.

The government notes that the impacts of this decision means that parts of the plan cannot be implemented as it was intended and is in the process of reviewing the implications of this disallowance motion on the current plan and commitments made under it. NSW will honour any commitments it has already made under the Plan while ensuring that it is getting the best outcomes and certainty for the state. It is acknowledged that these decisions have created uncertainty around these matters, however, NSW remains committed to the genuine triple bottom line outcomes intended by the Basin Plan.

Key projects

The NSW Government is working to ensure a sustainable water future for NSW.

Safe and Secure Water Program

The Safe and Secure Water Program is a $1 billion NSW Government co-funding program that will target water and sewerage projects in regional NSW to ensure infrastructure meets contemporary standards for water security, public health, environmental and safety outcomes into the future.

The program will provide co-funding to successful applicants such as local councils, water utilities, water corporations and prescribed dam owners for detailed planning and construction activities to install, augment or decommission water and sewerage infrastructure.

NSW Healthy Floodplains

The NSW Healthy Floodplains project will help drive reform in water management in northern basin floodplains. This includes managing development in floodplain areas and bringing water extractions from floodplains into a water licensing framework. The NSW Government is implementing the NSW Healthy Floodplains Project across five valleys in northern NSW: the Border-Rivers, Gwydir, Namoi, Barwon-Darling and Macquarie valleys. The project will help NSW meet extraction limits defined in WRPs and the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

Water Resource Plans

The NSW Government will develop 22 Water Resource Plans (WRPs) to set out arrangements to share water for consumptive use. The WRPs will establish rules to meet environmental and water quality objectives and will take into account potential and emerging risks to water resources. WRPs will play a key role in ensuring implementation of limits on the quantity of surface and groundwater that can be taken from the Murray Darling Basin for consumptive purposes.

Broken Hill Pipeline

Securing Broken Hill’s water supply is the centrepiece of the NSW Government’s $1 billion Regional Water Security and Supply Fund.

A reliable water supply for Broken Hill will underpin business confidence in the region, support the full functioning of health infrastructure and the tourism industry, and improve employment outcomes in the region. The water security package represents one of the largest investments into regional water security on record and puts the region on a stable economic footing for generations to come.

Menindee Lakes

The new Broken Hill pipeline also means the Menindee Lakes can be managed more efficiently to balance the need for productive water, environmental flows and the importance of the Lakes for the local community.

Who manages NSW water


Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA)

  • Established as an independent, expertise-based statutory agency
  • Responsible for planning the basin’s water resources, with all planning decisions made in the interest of the basin as a whole
  • Prepares, implements and reviews integrated plans for the sustainable use of the basin’s water resources
  • Operates the Murray River system and efficiently delivers water to users on behalf of partner governments, as well as measuring, monitoring and recording the quality and quantity of the basin’s water resources
  • Provides water rights information to facilitate water trading across the basin

Visit Murray Darling Basin Authority

Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder

  • Manages the Commonwealth’s environmental water holdings so as to protect or restore environmental assets in the Murray Darling Basin and in other areas where environmental water is held

Visit Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

  • Responsible for the management and use of water resources including National Water Initiative, the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, urban water policy and reform, and water quality improvement
  • Administers the key Commonwealth funding programs relevant to water management reforms

Visit the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources


Department of Industry—Lands & Water

  • Responsible for surface and groundwater management including ensuring water security for NSW
  • Ensures equitable sharing of surface and groundwater resources and that water entitlements and allocations are secure and tradeable
  • Manages NSW’s water resources through planning, policy and regulation
  • Leads negotiations with the Commonwealth, including the MDBA and other jurisdictions

Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR)

  • A new organisation to become operational in 2018
  • Responsible for compliance and enforcement of NSW water law with powers for investigations and other strategies as part of providing quality regulation
  • Determines when to commence prosecutions or uses other enforcement tools in the event of non compliance
  • Other functions include:
    • preparing policies and procedures relating to the enforcement powers under natural resources management legislation
    • advising and reporting to the Minister on matters relating to administration of natural resources management legislation
    • publishing details of convictions in prosecutions
  • The NRAR will initially focus on water regulation, but as it matures other prescribed natural resource management areas may be added

Visit NRAR


  • The state's bulk water supplier and operational manager of surface water and groundwater resources
  • Develops and operates infrastructure solutions for water supply security and reliability
  • Conducts customer facing functions such as the delivery of water and billing

Visit WaterNSW

Office of Environment & Heritage

  • Manages the state’s environmental water holdings
  • Develops a long term environmental watering plan as required under the Basin Plan

Visit Office of Environment & Heritage