Regional water strategies

NSW is struggling through a long period of drought. As part of our program of investment and reform, we are preparing new regional water strategies that will bring together the best and latest climate evidence with a wide range of tools and solutions to plan and manage the water needs in each NSW region over the next 20 years.

Led by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, we are preparing 12 regional water strategies in partnership with water service providers, local councils, communities, Aboriginal people and other stakeholders across NSW.

We will be working with communities to ensure local and traditional knowledge informs the strategies and that long-term water strategies serve regional communities, including First Nations, the environment and industry.

The final strategies developed over 2020 and 2021 will be adaptive, with inbuilt review processes to ensure each region has an effective and relevant strategy in place for future water management.

Regional water strategies bring together the most up to date information and evidence with all the tools we have – policy, planning, behavioural, regulatory, technology and infrastructure solutions – in an integrated package that is based on the best evidence and balances different water needs and delivers the right amount of water to people and businesses across NSW.

Regional water strategies will set out a long-term ‘roadmap’ of actions to deliver five objectives. Options selected for inclusion in the final strategy for each region will need to address at least one of these objectives, which are listed below:

  • Deliver and manage water for local communities
  • Enable economic prosperity
  • Recognise and protect Aboriginal cultural values and rights
  • Protect and enhance the environment
  • Affordability - Identify least cost policy and infrastructure options


During extreme events, such as the current drought, our focus is on securing basic landholder rights and essential town water supplies. Outside of these extreme events, we have greater flexibility to deliver across all of the objectives, including providing water for the environment.

The regional water strategies will integrate and align with other NSW Government programs such as the State Water Strategy (in development) the whole of government drought response, long term land use plans for regional NSW, water resource plans, long term watering plans and the Safe and Secure Water Program which provides options to address local-level issues.

Regional water strategies build on commitments made by the NSW Government in its response to the NSW State Infrastructure Strategy 2018.

The State Infrastructure Strategies 2014 and 2018 identified six priority areas for the development of regional water strategies: the Greater Hunter, Gwydir, Macquarie Castlereagh, Lachlan, South Coast and Far North Coast. The Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund is helping to support the fast-tracking of these Regional Water Strategies as part of its focus on water security for regional NSW.

Work is underway on the strategies throughout 2020, and delivery of the final strategies is expected in 2021.

We are currently working on the implementation of the Greater Hunter Regional Water Strategy.

Developing regional water strategies for Lachlan, Gwydir, and Macquarie-Castlereagh, South Coast and Far North Coast regions are a priority and are scheduled to be released in 2021.

This will be followed by the other six regions across NSW – Western, Namoi, Border Rivers, Murray, Murrumbidgee and North Coast.

We recognise the impact that the current drought and bush fires are having on our regional communities and will be flexible in the way we work with councils and communities in the development of the strategies. We acknowledge that this means in some areas, for example the South Coast, we will need to alter our time frames.

Development of the regional water strategies

We are working to improve the resilience of our water resources for towns and communities, the environment, Aboriginal communities and industry. Development of the Regional Water Strategies has been prioritised based on need, risk, and alignment to the State Infrastructure Strategy. This includes a catchment needs assessment for each region and current drought impacts. For more information visit Development of the regional water strategies.

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    Greater Hunter Regional Water Strategy

    Finalised and released in 2018, this strategy recommends options to improve how water is managed to respond to the region’s water needs over the next 30 years.

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    Gwydir Regional Water Strategy

    This strategy will consider water supply, reliability and security for towns and businesses in the Gwydir region. It will also consider urban water needs, the reliability of water supply for industries and protection of the region’s environmental assets, including the Gwydir Wetlands. The Gwydir region was identified as a priority region in the State Infrastructure Strategy 2014. The draft regional water strategy for Gwydir will be released and placed on public exhibition in mid-2020, with the final strategy to be completed in 2021.The strategy will consider all regulated, unregulated and groundwater sources in the region.

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    Macquarie-Castlereagh Regional Water Strategy

    This strategy will consider water supply, reliability and security for towns and businesses in the Macquarie Castlereagh region. The Macquarie Castlereagh strategy will also consider the maintenance of water supply for stock and people during drought. The Macquarie Castlereagh region was identified as a priority region in the State Infrastructure Strategy 2014. The draft regional water strategy for Macquarie-Castlereagh will be released and placed on public exhibition in mid-2020, with the final strategy to be completed in 2021.The strategy will consider all regulated, unregulated and groundwater sources in the region.

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    Lachlan Regional Water Strategy

    This strategy will consider water supply, reliability and security for towns and businesses in the Lachlan region. The Lachlan is characterised by periods of drought and flood. It has a low level of drought security and there is a need to better understand flood risk. The Lachlan region was identified as a priority region in the State Infrastructure Strategy 2014. The draft regional water strategy for Lachlan will be released and placed on public exhibition in mid-2020, with the final strategy to be completed in 2021.The strategy will consider all regulated, unregulated and groundwater sources in the region.

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    Far North Coast Regional Water Strategy

    This strategy will consider water supply reliability and security for communities, towns and businesses in the Far North Coast region. The region has been affected by periods of flooding and drought. This strategy being developed throughout 2020 and 2021, will consider the water needs of the region’s growing population and tourism industry, its agricultural, construction and manufacturing industries and the regions’ highly valued waterways, environmental and cultural assets. The draft regional water strategy for Far North Coast will be released and placed on public exhibition in mid-2020, with the final strategy to be completed in 2021.The strategy will consider all regulated, unregulated and groundwater sources in the region.

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    South Coast Regional Water Strategy

    This strategy will consider water supply reliability and security, including water quality, for communities, towns and businesses in the South Coast region. The region has been affected by periods of drought and bushfires. This strategy being developed will consider current and future water needs of the region’s changing population, its growing tourism industry, important agricultural, forestry and fishing sector, as well as the region’s highly valued waterways, environmental and cultural assets. The draft regional water strategy for South Coast will be released and placed on public exhibition in late-2020, with the final strategy to be completed in 2021.The strategy will consider all regulated, unregulated and groundwater sources in the region.

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    Lower Hunter Water Plan

    Developed in 2014, this plan sets out how we will manage severe droughts, and make sure there is enough water for the people and businesses of the Lower Hunter.