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Key Guidance


Assessment of water quantity, quality and health of aquifers, rivers, lakes and estuaries

State significant projects have the potential to impact on water quantity by using water from existing water resources, water quality through risk of contamination, pollution or sedimentation, and the health of aquifers, catchments, and waterways. These potential impacts are an important consideration in the assessment of State significant projects.

Water quantity

Water is a valuable and scarce resource with competing demands from various users placing a strain on the State’s existing resources. The NSW Government uses a range of policies and legislation to promote the efficient use and extraction of water and its conservation by all users. The following documents should be considered when assessing the use and extraction of water resources in State significant projects.

NSW Water Sharing Plans

Water Sharing Plans set rules for water trading including the buying and selling of water licences and annual water allocations.

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NSW Water Strategy

The NSW Water Strategy is part of a suite of long-term strategies being developed by the NSW Government to maintain the resilience of the state’s water services and resources over the coming decades. They aim to balance different and changing water needs and make sure that households, businesses, towns and cities, communities and the environment have access to the right amount of water for the right purpose at the right times. 

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Water quality

Good water quality is crucial for the health of aquatic ecosystems and domestic and industrial uses. The community's values and uses for our marine environments, rivers, creeks, estuaries and lakes should be considered when assessing the merits of State significant projects. The following policies help to assess whether a State significant project proposal supports these values and uses.

Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality

These guidelines provide water managers with tools and guidance to assess, manage and monitor the water quality and is a cornerstone of the National Water Quality Management Strategy.

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Guidelines for Groundwater Protection in Australia

The guidelines provide a national framework for groundwater protection. The aim of the guidelines is to provide a national vision for the protection of groundwater and consistent strategies to be implemented in each State and Territory.

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NSW Water and River Flow Objectives

These objectives are intended mainly for river, water and groundwater committees to consider and include in their river management plans.

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Marine Quality Objectives for NSW Ocean waters

These objectives are part of the NSW Government's program to set water quality objectives for all its major waterways. The aim of the Marine Water Quality Objectives is to simplify and streamline the consideration of water quality in coastal planning and management.

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Using the ANZECC Guidelines and Water Quality Objectives in NSW

The objectives provide stakeholders (government regulators, industry, consultants, community and catchment and water managers) with a framework for conserving ambient water quality in our rivers, lakes, estuaries and marine waters.

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Managing Urban Stormwater: Soils and Construction

This document provides guidelines, principles and recommended design standards for managing erosion and sediment control during service installation. This document guides the user in applying the principles and practices of erosion and sediment control described in Volume 1 of Managing urban stormwater: soils and construction to service installation projects.

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Use of Effluent by Irrigation Guideline

This guideline aims to encourage and optimise the safe reuse of water. This Guideline provides a framework to help meet these goals and promote the wise use of our limited water resources.

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Use and Disposal of Biosolids Guideline

The guideline sets out recommended management practices for the surface land disposal of biosolids (excluding those products classified as Unrestricted Use). These actions are aimed at protecting amenity, human health and water quality outside the biosolid disposal area.

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Groundwater access policies and guidelines

Groundwater is an important natural resource of drinking water for many towns and rural properties and is essential for several major industries, especially agriculture. It also supports ecosystems  such as wetlands, springs or vegetation communities, referred to as groundwater dependent ecosystems.  Groundwater can also be providing baseflow to numerous creek systems and contributing to their healthy aquatic ecosystems.

Many of our current and past activities affect the availability and quality of our groundwater. The following policies and guidance should be considered in the assessment of State significant projects for potential groundwater impacts.

NSW Aquifer Interference Policy

The AIP is the tool under the Water Management Act which establishes the limits of an activity to interfere with an aquifer and its impact on water users including the environment. The Policy defines minimal impact considerations for water availability and groundwater quality changes. This includes assessment of cumulative impacts. The AIP considerations apply during the whole lifetime of the project, i.e including when the activity has ceased. 

The Policy defines the minimum documentation and obligations to meet various levels of activity interferences and licencing for water take. 

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Code of Practice for Coal Seam Gas Well Integrity

The code provides a practical guide for coal seam gas (CSG) titleholders to comply with conditions of title for CSG exploration, extraction or production under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 (PO Act) and the Petroleum (Onshore) Regulation 2007 to ensure that well operations are carried out without risk to health or detriment to the environment.

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Code of Practice for Coal Seam Gas Fracture Simulation

The code applies to the conduct of CSG fracture simulation activities. It sets out the rules of behaviour that guide the decisions, procedures and systems of an organisation to achieve desired outcomes.

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Groundwater Toolkit and Guidelines

To ensure groundwater resources and their users are protected and result in no more than minimum harm, submissions for SSD and SSI projects related to groundwater need to be able to demonstrate their level of risk and impact on groundwater resources and groundwater users (including the environment).  To that effect, submissions need to meet specific requirements and provide sufficient evidence demonstrating the proposed activity is compliant with the Water Management Act 2000 and other NSW groundwater policy.

The Groundwater Toolkit includes guidelines and documents to guide the preparation of submissions. The overarching guideline and three technical documents address documentation requirements, groundwater modelling reporting requirements and generally guidance on how to approach the characterisation of groundwater impacts and risks, along with any water licencing requirements.

View the Toolkit and Guidelines

Rivers, lakes and estuaries

Rivers, lakes and estuaries provide a wide range of benefits to the community including recreation, wildlife, fisheries, agriculture and amenity. It is the policy of the NSW Government to encourage projects and activities which will protect these waterways and sustainably manage the quality of aquatic ecosystems.  When assessing State significant projects, the following policies and guidance should be considered.    

Developments in the Sydney Drinking Water Catchment – Water Quality Information Requirements  

These requirements guide development applications in the Sydney drinking water catchment to include a water cycle management study (WCMS) to help council and the Department assess whether developments will have a neutral or beneficial effect on water quality.

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Guidelines for Controlled Activities on Waterfront Land

These guidelines introduce new rules to amend the riparian corridor widths that apply to watercourses, providing more flexibility in how riparian corridors can be used and making it easier for applicants to determine the NRAR-controlled activity approval requirements.

View the Guidelines

Last updated: 17/07/2023