The NSW Government recognises that our rivers and groundwater systems are threatened by over-extraction of water. Water sharing plans have been developed to establish rules for sharing water between the environmental needs of a river or aquifer and all other water users, including town and rural water, industry and irrigation.
The NSW Office of Water monitors the effects of water sharing plans to determine whether they are succeeding in improving the health of our rivers and aquifers.
It is important that we understand the reasons for any changes to our rivers, and know how to use that knowledge to improve the way we manage water resources. Monitoring not only assesses how our rivers are responding to environmental flows, but also investigates how different patterns of water flow affect the way our rivers function. We also monitor our rivers and floodplains to ascertain their health. We are interested in the river's physical form, its fringing vegetation and what sort of fish and insects live in our rivers. All this information is then used to gauge the health of our rivers and floodplain systems.
As our scientific understanding increases, we will be able to more effectively allocate water to the environment and other water users, and better evaluate the performance of water sharing plans. Scientific feedback makes efficient sharing of water possible.
The Office of Water is currently involved in the following environmental monitoring projects:
- Regulated rivers: Integrated Monitoring of Environmental Flows program monitors the ecological response to environmental flow rules in the state's major regulated river systems, and the Barwon-Darling River
- Unregulated rivers: Environmental monitoring of unregulated river systems to assist development and implementation of water sharing plans
- Snowy River: Environmental flows response monitoring program monitors the impacts of the additional flows being provided under the Snowy Initiative
- Shoalhaven River: Monitoring environmental flows for the lower Shoalhaven River to improve river health and to better mimic the natural river flows
- Sustainable Rivers Audit: Coordinated by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to assess the ecological condition and health of the rivers throughout the Murray-Darling Basin
- Catchment monitoring: Measuring and reporting on progress towards the Government's statewide 'river health' targets and defining the physical form of our rivers using River Styles®
- Valley progress reports: The Office of Water is preparing a summary of current monitoring activities within each valley, describing a range of monitoring functions and outcomes to date.
Environmental Risk Assessment
Most water sources in unregulated river water sharing plan areas have been assessed using the process developed for macro water sharing plans. However, those unregulated water sources that are subject to a water sharing plan gazetted in 2004 were not subject to this process.
To address this, the plans for unregulated river water sources gazetted in 2004 were analysed using the macro water sharing plan approach and subject to an agency review process, so that their value and risk classifications were comparable to the other water sources within the surrounding macro water sharing plan area. Details and results of this process can be found in the report Priorities for implementation of unregulated river water sharing plans - a risk assessment approach (PDF 514 KB).