Water Policy

There are competing needs for water between humans and ecosystems including catchments, wetlands, rivers and lakes. This policy seeks to protect, maintain and restore natural land-based aquatic environments while providing potable water and using water sustainably in agriculture and industry.


The Greens NSW believe that:

1. Water is a common good and should be managed in an ecologically sustainable way to meet environmental, cultural, social and economic needs. This includes accounting for the increasingly extreme conditions to be expected as climate change progresses.

2. First Nations cultural knowledge, connection to Country and right to cultural flows should be recognised.

3. Natural catchments are needed for the health of streams and other aquatic systems downstream.

4. Water management should aim to preserve and where appropriate restore natural flow regimes and water quality for the benefit of all species and ecosystems that rely on it.

5. Wetlands should be protected, maintained and restored as critical parts of the aquatic system.

6. People have the right to access clean water for domestic use.

7. People and ecosystems should not be negatively impacted by water pollution.

8. Sustainable agricultural production must include crops that are less water intensive and irrigation that is more efficient. There should be no new in-stream dams or weirs, or enlargement of existing ones.

9. Water use should be managed through measurement and monitoring of all extraction and discharge with strong, well-resourced regulation and with appropriate penalties for non-compliance.

10. Groundwater extraction should not exceed groundwater recharge over the long term.

11. The marketisation of water should not result in adverse environmental, social and cultural impacts.

12. The provision of water to a community through a fixed network is a public service and should be publicly owned and run.

13. Government decision making relating to water management must include and reflect full community participation and public accountability.

14. Catchments that cross political boundaries must be managed by public agencies that transcend these boundaries.

15. Inter-catchment transfers of water should be reversed wherever feasible.

16. There should be no more urban development on floodplains.

17. There should be no mining in or under waterways, water bodies and wetlands or drinking water catchments.

18. Sewage should be treated to a standard for sustainable reuse.

19. Stormwater should be designed or modified to be captured, treated and reused in ways that improve the urban environment.


The Greens NSW will work towards:

20. The ecologically sustainable management of water by:

  1. Using and reusing water and wastewater efficiently and as close to source as practicable, such as with on-site wastewater management, rainwater tanks, stormwater recycling, and efficient irrigation;
  2. Reforming the management culture of all water authorities to prioritise environmental and socially just objectives;
  3. Enhancing the sustainability, natural variability and resilience of the physical, ecological and social aspects of the water cycle in the face of increasingly extreme variations in flow resulting from climate change;
  4. Protecting and enhancing water quality;
  5. Planting crops that are suited to the climate or require minimal and seasonally appropriate irrigation;
  6. 6. Protecting, maintaining and restoring wetlands and other aquatic systems from weed invasion and inappropriate urban, agricultural or industrial development.
  7. Acknowledging and integrating the vital contribution of volunteer groups in the protection and management of aquatic environments.
  8. Ensuring that we meet our international obligations under the Ramsar Convention and migratory bird treaties;
  9. Classifying currently unprotected wetland areas;
  10. Restoring native vegetation and ecosystem regeneration including through the creation of freshwater aquatic reserves where feasible, giving priority to areas that are most effective in increasing rainfall, and slowing salinisation and climate change.
  11. Pricing and regulating water services;
  12. Desalination using renewable energy;
  13. Increasing the volume of infiltration of surface water to groundwater;
  14. Restoring and boosting funding for household-water recycling programs;
  15. Supporting and funding school-based awareness programs such as Streamwatch.
  16. Implementing financial incentive schemes to encourage the management of wetlands and other aquatic environments on private land to promote biodiversity and ecological functions.

21. Recognising First Nations cultural knowledge, connection to Country and water rights by:

  1. Supporting the establishment of cultural flows, being water entitlements legally and beneficially owned by First Nations in sufficient quantity and quality for improving their spiritual, cultural, environmental, social and economic condition;
  2. Granting of cultural water licenses as required under the NSW Water Management Act 2000 and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan;
  3. Ensuring that water bodies are able to be included in Native Title claims; and
  4. Supporting inclusive and appropriate First Nations consultation and engagement in all water planning and management processes.

22. Promoting healthy riverine environments by:

  1. Restoring fishways, fish migration pathways, and endemic fish habitats; 
  2. Restoring natural water temperatures downstream of large dams; 
  3. Ensuring that public water storages benefit the riverine environment as well as extractive water users;
  4. Subjecting to an environmental impact assessment any works that impede, divert or speed up river flows or floodwaters on floodplains or speed the movement of river or flood water; and
  5. Ending the release of non-native species into water bodies;
  6. Mapping, protecting and restoring all natural NSW wetlands and encouraging new artificial wetlands;
  7. Removing or lowering dams and weirs where possible; and
  8. Preventing the re-alignment of waterways.

23. Ensuring universal access to affordable domestic water including potable water for drinking and water of appropriate quality for other uses;

24. Scaling tariff structures that provide affordable water but discourage overuse.

25. Reducing water pollution by:

  1. Fully treating all sewage and mine water discharges to natural water bodies;
  2. Phasing out ocean outfalls;
  3. Imposing an environmental levy to counter the public cost of environmental damage associated with resource misuse;
  4. Reducing stormwater infiltration to sewers;
  5. Minimising runoff and seepage from phosphate-based agricultural activities;
  6. Rapidly phasing out harmful cleaning products and other chemicals;
  7. Assisting farmers to exclude farm animals from the riparian zone of perennial watercourses in order to protect water quality and enhance endemic riparian ecosystems; and
  8. Preventing pollution of groundwater from sources such as landfill, fuel storage tanks, and mining.

26. Improving agricultural sustainability through:

  1. Fostering the development of low water-demand agricultural crops to replace higher demand crops as part of a structural transformation towards reduced water usage;
  2. Offering incentives for products that require minimal irrigation and are more in keeping with natural rainfall patterns; and
  3. Ensuring NSW meets or exceeds its requirements under the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

27. Regulating floodplain harvesting through:

  1. Incorporating floodplain harvesting volumes into the Murray Darling Basin cap;
  2. Monitoring and publishing the volumes of water harvested;
  3. Ensuring that the water due to downstream users is provided;
  4. Disallowing carry-overs of water entitlements from one season to the next;
  5. Disallowing trading of floodplain harvesting entitlements; and
  6. Removing environmentally and culturally damaging or illegal floodplain structures.

28. Reducing the need for infrastructure projects by:

  1. Implementing water efficiency, conservation and water loss reduction measures.
  2. Where infrastructure is necessary, prioritising water recycling over extracting water from surface, aquifer or marine sources.

29. Monitoring, measuring and publishing amounts of water extracted from, discharged to and flowing along water bodies and the public water network.

30. Improving management of groundwater by:

  1. Prioritising the management of uncontrolled flows of bore waters from artesian, sub-artesian and shallow aquifers by capping and piping;
  2. Mapping, metering and licensing all existing bores;
  3. Recharging aquifers with water of a quality no worse than what is there already; and
  4. Metering and regulating groundwater extraction so that it does not exceed groundwater recharge.

31. Regulating water markets to:

  1. Take account of environmental, social and cultural impacts;
  2. Deter large scale water speculation;
  3. Encourage the augmentation of flows that enhance ecosystems, water quality, cultures and the sustainability of communities downstream.

32. Utilising pricing and taxation to address:

  1. The ecological and social costs of water extraction and discharge;
  2. The economic and social costs to current and future generations;
  3. Distortions caused by inappropriate subsidies for agricultural water usage;
  4. Financial gains attributable to public expenditure;
  5. The financial benefits contributed by ecosystem services.
  6. The discharge of water pollutants, including salts.

33. Ensuring water utilities and associated infrastructure are publicly owned and controlled.

34. Managing communal and public water with full community participation, including First Nations communities, public education and public accountability.

35. Recognising local government as a major stakeholder in the management of water as it is the best placed level of government to understand the needs of the community and the environment.

36. Establishing independent public agencies to manage catchments and water that cross political boundaries.

37. Progressively phasing out inter-catchment transfers, such as by restoring flows to the Snowy River.

38. Mitigating flood risks by discouraging further development on floodplains and prioritising non-structural strategies for flood-risk management such as:

  1. Flood proofing; raising buildings above the flood level;
  2. Using systems to promote infiltration to the water table;
  3. Enhancing flood preparedness;
  4. Detaining stormwater;
  5. Restoring natural off-stream flood storages such as wetlands and billabongs;
  6. Encouraging the installation and use of household rainwater tanks;
  7. Requiring occupants of the floodplain to contribute to a fund for reducing flood damage cost through a socially equitable levy.
  8. Relocating flood-prone communities to flood-free sites with their full collaboration.

39. Modifying existing stormwater networks or building new ones in accordance with the principles of Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD).

40. Monitoring the effectiveness of rehabilitating wetlands and other aquatic systems, and educating the broader community about their benefits.

Closely Related Greens NSW Policies

Coastal Management

Last revised August 2023.