Communities across NSW need safe, secure and sustainable supplies of quality water for drinking, farming, industry and residential use, and for sustaining the health or our rivers and wetlands. Drought, floods, climate change and population shifts present significant challenges.

The NSW Office of Water leads the NSW Government's policy agenda on regional urban water to secure potable water supplies for country towns and to assist regional water utilities to meet water supply and sewerage services performance standards. Regional water supply and sewerage services are currently provided by 94 general purpose local government councils, five county councils and five water supply authorities.

Information on planning and delivery of urban water services for regional urban areas is available at Country Towns Program. Regional urban areas exclude the metropolitan areas of greater Sydney and the lower Hunter regions.

Metropolitan area water

Urban water planning for the metropolitan areas is the responsibility of the Metropolitan Water Directorate within the Department of Finance and Services. The long term water supply for the greater Sydney metropolitan region is addressed by the 2010 Metropolitan Water Plan. The implementation of the Metropolitan Water Plan is supported by the Metropolitan Water Directorate education and engagement program.

Information on metropolitan urban water supply and sewerage services is available from Sydney Water Corporation and the Sydney Catchment Authority for the greater Sydney region, and from Hunter Water Corporation for the lower Hunter region.

Lower Hunter Water Plan

The Metropolitan Water Directorate within the Department of Finance and Services is leading a whole-of-government approach to developing the Lower Hunter Water Plan in close consultation with the lower Hunter community.

Urban water pricing

Information on water pricing for Sydney Water Corporation, Hunter Water Corporation, Gosford City Council, Wyong Shire Council and Essential Water (Broken Hill) is available from the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.

Review and reform

The NSW Office of Water is working on a number of review and reform projects around urban water practices and processes.

In September 2007 the then Minister for Water announced an independent inquiry into secure and sustainable urban water supply and sewerage services for non-metropolitan NSW. The inquiry examined the performance of local water utilities and the challenges that are facing them. The inquiry invited public submissions and held public hearings in 17 locations across New South Wales. The public hearings held by the inquiry attracted almost 500 attendees and it received over 140 written submissions. For more information, including the inquiry report, go to Local Water Utilities Inquiry.

The NSW Government has also sought community input into a review of the institutional and technical aspects of the plumbing and drainage regulation in NSW. The aim of the review is to assess the appropriateness of the current structure for plumbing and drainage in NSW, in the context of the Government's policy objectives and the changing water industry structure. For more information, go to Plumbing > Review.

Meeting the challenge of securing the water supply of greater Sydney and NSW in the long-term and in drought requires the innovation, resources and cooperation of both the Government and the private sector. In November 2006, the Water Industry Competition Act 2006 was passed by the NSW Parliament. It was developed by the NSW Government to encourage competition in the water industry and to promote the development of infrastructure for the production and reticulation of recycled water. For more information, go to Private water industry.

NSW Government responds to Productivity Commission's draft report on Australia's urban water sector

In April 2011 the Productivity Commission released a Draft Report on Australia's Urban Water Sector. This report included a number of draft recommendations and findings and sought submissions from interested parties. The draft report can be viewed on the Productivity Commission's website.

The NSW Government's response to the Productivity Commission's draft report includes:

  • The goal of the NSW Government's Country Towns Water Supply and Sewerage Program articulates a common objective for the non-metropolitan urban water sector as recommended in the Commission's draft Recommendation 3.1 (page 9 of response):

    • Appropriate, affordable and cost-effective water supply and sewerage services in urban areas of non-metropolitan NSW which meet community needs, protect public health and the environment and make best use of regional resources.

  • For non-metropolitan water utilities in NSW, the current regulatory framework, including the Best-Practice Management of Water Supply and Sewerage Guidelines 2007, addresses most provisions in the Commission's draft Recommendation 11.2 on utility charters and governance arrangements (page 24 of response).
  • The Commission's use of the AECOM report 'Review of Regional Water Quality and Security 2010' (page 7 of response):

    NSW notes that the (Productivity Commission's) draft report, particularly Chapter 13, makes considerable use of a report prepared for Infrastructure Australia by AECOM Review of Regional Water Quality and Security 2010 which was released on 31 January 2011. This report contains numerous inaccuracies. It does not accurately represent the circumstances relating to drinking water quality; operator training; water pricing and full cost recovery; and water security in non-metropolitan NSW.

    To assist the Productivity Commission in the preparation of its final report, the NSW Government provides:

    Attachment B: Additional NSW Government comments on the Draft Report (PDF 470 KB) includes corrections to references to the AECOM report in the draft findings and draft recommendations.

    Attachment C: Letter of 31 March 2011 from the NSW Office of Water to Infrastructure Australia (PDF 396 KB) which provides a detailed commentary on the AECOM report's deficiencies.

View the NSW Government submission on the Productivity Commission Draft Report on Australia's Urban Water Sector (PDF 3 MB). Attachments B and C of the government's response are provided above.