How water is managed

Water is one of our most valuable natural assets. We have a responsibility to the people of NSW to ensure we have an equitable and transparent approach to the management of our water now and for future generations.

We will manage water to:

  • support jobs, economic growth, the environment, and our health and wellbeing
  • deliver efficient services with a focus on innovation, performance and affordability
  • improve the health of waterways and their catchments to support our environmental, social, cultural and economic needs and values
  • support the sustainable use of and access to water
  • enable farmers and all water users to achieve and improve water efficiency with the available water, while supporting regional communities to adjust to a changing climate
  • plan infrastructure that secures water supply and increases drought resilience across our communities
  • support the wellbeing of rural and regional communities who enjoy the recreational benefits our regional waterways provide.

The NSW Government's Water Reform Action Plan outlines how we will deliver on our goals. A number of changes are planned and underway.

Why are there different rules for managing water across NSW?

Watch this short video.


The NSW Government is building a compliance and enforcement regime that ensures strong and certain regulations for water in the state.

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

The regulator is 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.

You can find a summary of the licensing and compliance activities of the Department of Planning and Environment—Water, WaterNSW and the NRAR in the brochure:

Who’s who in NSW water management


Department of Planning and Environment—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


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