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NSW Water Strategy charts state's path to the future

The New South Wales government has launched the NSW Water Strategy, a 20-year blueprint to help deliver resilient and sustainable water resources to communities across the state. 

Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said the strategy marks the first-ever platform for the long-term management of water in NSW, and is set to guide water planning and policy, as well as water infrastructure investments decisions.

“This strategy, underpinned by cutting-edge climate modelling, will help our state work towards becoming a world leader in water innovation and efficiency,” Pavey said.

“In the next 12 months we’ll refocus our efforts on water conservation and leakage reduction in our cities, towns and regional centres, and deliver a state-wide water efficiency framework.

“We’ll also look for opportunities to invest in research and development, and new technologies, including recycled water opportunities for industrial and agricultural uses.”

The NSW government will be investigating and investing in alternate supply options, including stormwater harvesting and water reuse initiatives, and consider the development of a consistent approach to water restrictions.

“We’re exploring a range of options, including boosting water recycling across communities for watering crops and gardens, fighting fires, flushing toilets and reducing pollution in our waterways,” Pavey said.

“Already, about 70% of local water utilities recycle water. Treated stormwater is being used to provide up to 25% of Orange’s supply.”

Key priorities

The strategy outlines targets for water management in the state under seven key priorities, including:

  • building community confidence and capacity through engagement, transparency and accountability;
  • recognising First Nations/Aboriginal people’s rights and values and increase access to and ownership of water for cultural and economic purposes;
  • improving river, floodplain and aquifer ecosystem health, and system connectivity;
  • increasing resilience to changes in water availability (variability and climate change);
  • supporting economic growth and resilient industries within a capped system;
  • supporting resilient, prosperous and liveable cities and towns; and
  • enabling a future focused, capable and innovative water sector.

The strategy establishes an overarching vision for the 12 regional and two metropolitan water strategies also being developed, which are tailored to the specific needs of each region in the state.

Pavey said the strategy will help the state prepare for future water challenges, including higher demand for water and a more variable climate.

“People living in NSW make up more than a third of Australia’s population, and over the next 20 years, our state will grow by 2.8 million. We need the right infrastructure in place to enable this growth, knowing the challenges we face with a changing climate,” Pavey said.

“The recent drought was one of the worst and most extreme on record, and it hit our communities hard. Our water supplies were stretched to their limits.

“But the drought also brought about creative and innovative ideas about infrastructure investment, with many communities having to source different means of increasing their supply.

“While many of our dams are now full or starting to spill, we know drought will come again, so now is the time to make decisions to ensure our communities, industries and environment thrive, now and into the future.”

The strategy also coincides with the launch of the Water Project Map, a new tool providing access to information about all water infrastructure projects across NSW. The map shows areas of investment for critical water infrastructure projects, details of the projects and how they are helping communities.

Progress on the strategy will be monitored with the development of an integrated framework for reviewing and reporting, and the strategy will be formally evaluated, reviewed and updated at least every five years.