Better management of environmental water

The NSW Government is committed to improving the way in which we manage environmental water in the NSW Northern Murray–Darling Basin. The Murray–Darling Basin's water resources need to be managed to protect the environment, and the communities and industries that depend on it.

Both the NSW and Commonwealth governments have invested public funds in recovering water for the environment. Environmental water must be better managed to maximise environmental outcomes to improve the health of the Basin.

NSW Government deliverables to better manage environmental water in the NSW Northern Basin are set out in the:

Progress towards meeting these deliverables are detailed in the Better management of environmental water – Progress report

The Managing water for the environment fact sheet released February 2019 provides a summary of NSW Government policies for reporting on, managing and recovering water for the environment and the government's commitment to improve the way we manage environmental water.

Solutions being progressed

We are currently investigating solutions to:

Environmental water

Further information on the solutions is outlined in the Better management of environmental water – Northern Murray-Darling Basin snapshot released in December 2018.

Changes to water management are needed, but it is a complex issue and it is important to take the time to get the policy mix right. We're undertaking analysis to identify a package of solutions that will improve outcomes, while balancing the needs of the environment and other water users.

Stakeholder consultation

We are committed to understanding the benefits and impacts of options. Stakeholders will have an opportunity to comment before the Minister makes a decision.

Where possible, we are aligning stakeholder consultation on solutions for better managing environmental water in the Barwon-Darling, lower Gwydir and lower Macquarie with water resource plan development and consultation activities.

Public exhibition of proposed rule changes is scheduled for later in 2019 as part of the public exhibition of the Barwon-Darling Water Resource Plan package.

Implementing solutions

Where appropriate, new measures will be implemented through amendments to NSW water sharing plans and incorporated into water resource plans required under the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.

Incorporating the package of solutions into water sharing plans will ensure the solutions are enduring and certain.

Water resource plans, including the proposed water sharing plan amendments, will be submitted to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority for accreditation in December 2019.

Implementation of water sharing plan changes is likely to occur in mid-2020, following accreditation of the water resource plans by the Commonwealth and subject to the state approval of the water sharing plan amendments for the Barwon–Darling, Macquarie and Gwydir unregulated water sharing plans.

Progress on better management of environmental water reforms

The Better management of environmental water – Northern Murray-Darling Basin snapshot released in December 2018 provides detail on solutions being examined, progress and next steps at the time of publication.

A Progress report released in June 2019 collates and reports on progress against all deliverables to better manage environmental water detailed in the Water Reform Action Plan, Interim solutions package roadmap , Northern Murray–Darling Basin snapshot and the Work plan.

Temporary water restrictions to protect environmental water releases and first flows after an extended dry period

In 2018, we used temporary water restrictions to protect first flows after an extended dry period.

A report on the outcomes of the temporary water restrictions to protect first flows is under development.

In April – June 2018 we also prohibited access to environmental water releases from the Border Rivers and Gwydir catchments to connect over 2000 km of waterways in the Northern Basin. This became known as the Northern Connectivity Event.

For more information:

Interagency Working Group – Environmental Water

As part of the NSW Government's Water Reform Action Plan, an Interagency Working Group (IWG), with New South Wales and Commonwealth agency representation, was established in February 2018 to develop options on how the NSW Government can better manage environmental water.

The IWG work collaboratively with the Water Renewal Taskforce to guide the delivery of better management of environmental water.

A solutions package

The IWG presented the NSW Government with an Interim solutions package for better managing environmental water within 90 days of its commencement. This was released in June 2018. The NSW Government agreed to progress the recommendations of the IWG's interim solutions package, which include:

  • interim solutions, including trials for better managing environmental water and establishing the legislative framework for enduring solutions
  • road map to deliver the interim solutions and progress enduring solutions
  • governance arrangements and reporting, including a continuing role for the IWG until the water resource plans commence in 2019
  • consultation approaches, including using the existing Basin Plan water resource planning consultation process, to progress these reforms.

The interim solutions focus on the Northern Basin, including the Barwon–Darling in particular. This focus was supported by stakeholders during consultation in April 2018.

IWG Membership

The IWG consists of representatives from the following Commonwealth and State agencies:

  • Department of Planning, Industry and Environment—Water Renewal Taskforce
  • Department of Planning, Industry and Environment—Water
  • Department of Planning, Industry and Environment—Environment Energy and Science
  • Department of Primary Industries—Fisheries
  • Natural Resources Access Regulator
  • Department of Primary Industries—Agriculture
  • WaterNSW
  • Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder
  • Murray–Darling Basin Authority
  • Natural Resources Commission

IWG Terms of Reference

The IWG's Terms of Reference were reviewed in June 2019. Amendments were made to reflect the expanded membership of the group, and its shift in focus to providing advice on enduring solutions following release of the interim solutions package in June 2018.

IWG Meeting Summaries

Previous reports