A NSW Government website

NSW Water Strategy

Action plan 2021/22

Purpose of the Implementation Plan

The NSW Water Strategy is the first 20-year water strategy for all of NSW, and it will put water on the same footing as other essential state resources and services, such as transport. As a 20-year Strategy, delivery of actions will span short, medium and longer-term time horizons.

This Plan outlines how we will deliver the NSW Water Strategy in 2021-2022. It provides an outcomes-focused annual delivery plan that gives a high level, realistic outline as to how the actions in the Strategy will be delivered for the next 12 months.

Part 1 of this plan identifies:

  • what we will deliver in 2021-22 under the seven priorities in the NSW Water Strategy
  • who the lead agencies and partners are that will work together to deliver the actions.

We will publicly report on progress annually, and update the Implementation Plan every year to reflect actions for the year ahead. Annual reporting on implementation will provide transparency and accountability for delivering the Strategy for the NSW community.

Implementation of the Strategy is adaptive and has been designed to address changing and emerging issues through regular review. An integrated framework for reviewing and reporting against the NSW Water Strategy, the 12 regional water strategies and two metropolitan water strategies will allow us to track the effectiveness of implementation against achieving the actions of the NSW Water Strategy.

The NSW Water Strategy will be formally evaluated and updated at least every five years.

Timeframes

This Plan shows what delivery will look like for the year ahead from July 2021 to end of June 2022.

Delivery of the full Strategy will be staged over short, medium and longer-term time horizons, and future actions will be reported in subsequent annual Implementation Plans as funding is secured and delivery partners identified.

Indicative timing for delivery of all actions in the Strategy over the three time horizons is mapped out in Part 2 of this Plan.

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Protecting public health and safety

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Cultural values respected and protected

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Liveable and vibrant towns and cities

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Orderly fair and equitable sharing of water

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Water sources, floodplains and ecosystems protected

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Contribute to a strong economy

What we will deliver in 2021-22

Priority 1 - Build community confidence and capacity through engagement, transparency and accountability

Action 1.1 Improve engagement, collaboration and understanding

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Provide plain English explanations with water access licenses to provide clarity for water users about mandatory conditions.
  • Host a monthly public webinar about upcoming water engagement events.
  • Publish the findings of an independent review of the effectiveness of our stakeholder and community engagement activities every
    two years.
  • Publish multimedia content that makes water information available at a time and in a format that suits customers and the community.
  • Develop a strategy to implement changes to the licensing and approvals system with a focus on accountability and performance, driven by customer experience.
  • Publicly report on progress of all commitments made in response to recommendations from inquiries, reviews and audits.

Responsibility: DPIE, WaterNSW

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Action 1.2 Increase the amount and quality of publicly available information about water in NSW

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Improve the DPIE website as our primary tool of communication and access to information for customers and the community.
  • Take an open by default approach to information and publication that describes when and how we publish information, based on an ‘if not why not’ approach.
  • Develop an open data framework to enable public access.
  • Publish information on how water allocations are determined in each of our large regulated river valleys.
  • Continuously improve the Water Insights and Water Information Dashboards.

Responsibility: DPIE, WaterNSW

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Action 1.3 Enhance modelling capabilities and make more data and models openly available

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Through the open data framework, publish models and model outputs, with an initial focus on rainfall and runoff models.

Responsibility: DPIE,  WaterNSW

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Action 1.4 Reinforce the effectiveness of the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR)

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Release 20 planned compliance program final reports to industry and the public.
  • Publish information to make sure that water users understand their obligations and are aware of the consequences of non-compliance and the compliance approach of the regulator.
  • Undertake 50 formal stakeholder events that inform and promote NRAR’s regulatory work in priority areas.
  • Engage regulated entities in 5000 site inspections through the Routine Monitoring Project.
  • Hold a minimum of three meetings per year between the NRAR Executive/Board and major stakeholders.
  • Invest in data, intelligence, analytics and systems to focus our regulatory effort towards greatest compliance outcomes.

Responsibility: NRAR, DPIE

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Action 1.5 Take the final steps in floodplain harvesting reform

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Finalise floodplain harvesting water access licences and works approvals to manage water take within legal limits, amend water sharing plans and revise draft water resource plans for assessment.

Responsibility: DPIE

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Action 1.6 Review the regulation of domestic and stock basic landholder rights

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Publish a discussion paper about domestic and stock basic landholder rights management and water usage and consult with the community to confirm key issues.
  • Conduct a case study into any significant issues relating to domestic and stock basic landholder rights to collect evidence, quantify
    risks and scope potential solutions.

Responsibility:  DPIE

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Action 1.7 Make sure the majority of non- urban water take, including floodplain harvesting, in NSW is accurately measured

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Monitor levels of compliance and uptake of metering and telemetry by water users.
  • Introduce clear and enforceable rules for measuring floodplain harvesting.
  • Operate and improve coverage of a telemetry system, to allow water users to remotely measure and transmit their water take information.
  • Engage with water users to ensure awareness and to equip them with the information they need to comply with the rules.
  • Engage with suppliers and installers of metering equipment to increase water users’ choice of metering and telemetry equipment,
    and installers.

Responsibility: DPIE, NRAR

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Priority 2. Recognise First Nations/Aboriginal People’s rights and values and increase access to and ownership of water for cultural and economic purposes

Action 2.1 Strengthen the role of First Nations/Aboriginal People in water planning and management

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Develop an engagement framework that is appropriate, inclusive and culturally- appropriate, that describes when and how we engage with First Nations/Aboriginal People and peak organisations.

Responsibility: DPIE with First Nations/Aboriginal peak  groups and communities

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Action 2.2 Develop a state- wide Aboriginal Water Strategy

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Commence the development of the Aboriginal Water Strategy, with an initial focus on scoping and co-design of the principles, process and engagement model for developing the strategy.

Responsibility: DPIE with First Nations/Aboriginal peak groups and communities

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Action 2.3 Provide Aboriginal ownership of and access to water for cultural and economic purposes

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Contribute to national processes to confirm the inland water target under Closing the Gap National Agreement.
  • Identify opportunities for greater Aboriginal access and ownership of water through the Aboriginal Water Strategy.
  • Develop a pilot to test methodology for cultural flows.
  • Examine options to address barriers to First Nations/Aboriginal People's access to the water market such as pricing.
  • Continue work as part of the whole of government negotiating team for Native Title determinations and Indigenous Land Use Agreements and address Native Title issues in water sharing plans as they are amended or remade.
  • Develop a pilot to enable access to Country between landholders and Native Title holders to identify sites and progress negotiated outcomes, such as use and access.

Responsibility: DPIE with First Nations/Aboriginal peak groups and communities

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Action 2.4 Work with First Nations/Aboriginal people to improve shared water knowledge

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Develop programs and initiatives to improve cultural competency within the water sector.
  • Develop and deliver culturally appropriate information materials on water management policies, rules and frameworks.
  • Provide support for First Nations/Aboriginal People to navigate the water licensing and approvals framework.
  • Involve First Nations/Aboriginal People in the management of environmental water.

Responsibility: DPIE with First Nations/Aboriginal peak groups and communities

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Action 2.5 Work with First Nations/Aboriginal people to maintain and preserve water-related cultural sites and landscapes

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Embed First Nations/Aboriginal People and their considerations into policy, planning and infrastructure development processes.
  • Water Infrastructure NSW’s First Nations engagement team will lead and facilitate consultation with Aboriginal People on water infrastructure projects, providing opportunities for their wisdom and experience to be considered and incorporated into project decisions.

Responsibility: DPIE with First Nations/Aboriginal peak groups and communities

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Priority 3. Improve river, floodplain and aquifer ecosystem health, and system connectivity

Action 3.1 Consider NSW Long Term Water Plans (LTWPs) to protect and enhance ecological systems

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Consider Long Term Water Plans as the framework to guide the delivery of environmental water and development of management rules including in deliberations by Environmental Water Advisory Groups.

Responsibility: DPIE

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Action 3.2 Take landscape scale action to improve river and catchment health

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Finalise five regional water strategies and continue community consultation on another six regional water strategies that will be finalised by the end of 2022. Regional water strategies will identify key land use and land management problems and options to improve river health in consultation with land management stakeholders.

Responsibility: DPIE

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Action 3.3 Take action to address threats to native fish

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Improve fish passage at priority sites as guided by the NSW Fish Passage Strategy.
  • Review and update the Cold Water Pollution Strategy and guidelines for management.
  • Finalise the NSW Diversion Screening Strategy and implement works at priority sites, with a focus in the northern Murray-
    Darling Basin, to reduce impacts to fish from water extraction.

Responsibility: DRNSW, DPIE

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Action 3.4 Invest in long-term and effective monitoring, evaluation, reporting and research

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Finalise a monitoring and evaluation framework for water sharing plans, and initially target locations with high environmental risk.
  • Monitor and report on environmental water delivery and management to inform adaptive management and reporting.
  • Publish an updated River Condition Index.

Responsibility: DPIE

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Action 3.5 Adopt a more intense, state- wide focus on water quality

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Implement Water Quality Management Plans as required under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
  • Implement the Marine Estate Management Strategy sub-actions to:
    • review and refine government arrangements for the management of diffuse source water pollution
    • review and (where necessary) update the NSW Water Quality Objectives in coastal catchments to ensure they reflect contemporary community environmental values and uses.
  • Continue to support the preparation and implementation of Coastal Management Programs by councils to achieve the objectives of the Coastal Management Act 2016 that may include actions to maintain and improve water quality and estuary health, supported by monitoring and evaluation.
  • Prepare a water quality roadmap of roles and responsibilities for water quality management and monitoring across NSW, and consider options to address gaps, remove duplication or uncertainty and improve water quality governance arrangements.
  • Develop standard, state-wide arrangements for the monitoring of extreme events in order to enhance response actions and reduce risks.
  • Monitor and report on water quality.

Responsibility: DPIE, EPA

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Action 3.6 An enhanced, state-wide focus on sustainable groundwater management

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Develop a draft NSW Groundwater Strategy for consultation with the community.

Responsibility: DPIE

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Action 3.7 Work with communities to better understand and improve system connectivity

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Release a draft Western Regional Water Strategy which will:
    • Propose a definition of connectivity.
    • Provide the hydrological modelling evidence base for historical flows in the Barwon-Darling River and the extent to which recent reforms have contributed towards connectivity goals.
    • Propose additional connectivity options for further exploration.
  • North West Unregulated Flow Management Plan targets:
    • Review the existing targets in the North West Unregulated Flow Management Plan based on the best available science.
    • Develop an operational management plan to guide Plan implementation.

Continue to implement the recommendations of the Independent Panel Assessment of the Management of the 2020 Northern Basin First Flush Event, as outlined in the NSW Government response and provide an update report on implementation annually.

Responsibility: DPIE, WaterNSW

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Priority 4. Increase resilience to changes in water availability (variability and climate change)

Action 4.1 New actions to improve and apply our understanding of climate variability and change

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Incorporate new climate data into the development of:
    • 12 regional water strategies
    • Greater Sydney Water Strategy and Lower Hunter Water Security Plan.
  • Pilot delivery of climate risk data in a format that meets the needs of local water utilities.
  • Determine a methodology and progressively incorporate climate risk data into water sharing plan and environmental water management decision making.
  • Establish a NSW Community of Practice for water practitioners to share methods, knowledge and resources to improve environmental, economic and social outcomes.
  • Participate in national and Basin wide communities of practice and share learnings from these groups to align and improve decision making.

Responsibility: DPIE

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Action 4.2 Review water allocation and water sharing in response to new climate information

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Publish information explaining the allocation process for each regulated river system.
  • As part of regional water strategy development, consider and consult on options for how new climate risk information can inform allocation decisions.

Responsibility: DPIE

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Action 4.3 Improve drought planning, preparation and resilience

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Implement the Future Ready Regions Strategy.
  • Finalise five regional water strategies and two metropolitan water strategies and continue community consultation on another six regional water strategies that will be finalised by the end of 2022.
  • Advocate in Murray-Darling Basin governance forums for changes to current management frameworks to respond to drought conditions.
  • Prepare and publish summaries that explain how the drought was managed in each valley and the lessons learnt from the measures used.
  • Revise the Incident Response Guides for regulated river systems that guide how and when measures were introduced and repealed.
  • Update the NSW Extreme Events Policy toDRNSW, reflect these lessons.
  • Consult with local water utilities, the community and industry about the strengths, challenges and practical considerations of a potential harmonised approach to water restrictions across the state.

Responsibility: DPIE, DRNSW, WaterNSW, Sydney Water, Hunter Water

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Action 4.4 Better integrate land use planning and water management

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Identify opportunities for land use planning frameworks to respond to water management and resilience outcomes in light of climate risk assessments.
  • Align outcomes in regional plans with regional water strategies in their consideration of future land and water use.
  • Through the Groundwater Strategy, establish criteria to identify critical groundwater resources and develop spatial products and data to allow for identification and mapping.
  • Develop guidelines to provide information to applicants and proponents on the requirements for groundwater assessments to support stronger disclosure of data and modelling predictions. This will aim to improve the completeness of applications and transparency of impact, resulting in increased efficiencies and informed decision-making.
  • Continue to implement the Rapid Assessment Framework that will make system improvements that increase the efficiency
    of major project assessments and speed up assessment timeframes while also improving assessment quality, engagement standards
    and customer service.
  • Work with First Nations/Aboriginal People to understand how cultural values could be identified and considered earlier in land use planning processes.

Responsibility: DPIE, Local Government

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Priority 5. Support economic growth and resilient industries within a capped system

Action 5.1 Provide greater certainty to regional businesses that rely on secure access to water

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Develop a master plan for each special activation precinct with a long-term vision that will consider the availability of water and how to secure water for industrial use via the water market or other mechanisms.
  • Work closely with local councils to streamline planning approvals in Regional Job Precincts to provide industry with greater confidence around future investment.
  • Finalise five regional water strategies and continue community consultation on another six regional water strategies that will be finalised by the end of 2022 that will identify the optimal mix of management and infrastructure investment to support jobs and
    economic growth in regional NSW.

Responsibility: DRNSW, DPIE, Local Government

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Action 5.2 Invest in research and development (R&D) and new technologies to lift water productivity in NSW industries

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Measure and report the economic value of water to key sectors of the economy across NSW. Metering reforms currently being implemented across NSW will provide accurate data about water use for productive purposes and help quantify the contribution of water to economic outcomes.
  • Report on progress and completion of funded R&D projects, including Water use in Agriculture Inventory and Trends & drivers of water productivity in Australian cotton.
  • Support the resources sector to improve its water use and increase transparency.
  • Pilot recycled water opportunities for industrial and agricultural uses, e.g. in the Western Parkland City’s proposed Intensive Horticultural Production Zone.

Responsibility: DRNSW, DPIE

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Action 5.3 Improve the operation and transparency of water trade in NSW

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Update water trade application forms and systems to capture additional information on the price and purpose of trades.
  • Consider the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s recommendations in its Murray-Darling basin water markets
    inquiry report and work with stakeholders and other governments in the Murray-Darling Basin to determine appropriate reform.

Responsibility: DPIE, WaterNSW

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Action 5.4 Identify infrastructure and operational options for each region of NSW

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Finalise five regional water strategies and continue community consultation on another six regional water strategies that will be finalised by the end of 2022 that will identify infrastructure and operational management options for each region in NSW to improve reliability for all water users and the environment.

Responsibility: DPIE

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Action 5.5 Investigate causes of underuse and develop options to bring use back up to cap

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Research and consult with stakeholders to better understand issues of water availability and usage through the regional water strategies for the Murrumbidgee and Murray valleys.

Responsibility: DPIE

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Priority 6. Support resilient, prosperous and liveable cities and towns

Action 6.1 Increase resilience to changes in climate and water availability in Greater Sydney and the Lower Hunter

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Release a draft Greater Sydney Water Strategy and Lower Hunter Water Security Plan to consult with the public and key stakeholders in 2021.
  • Finalise and publish both strategies and implementation plans in 2022, informed by what we hear from consultation.

Responsibility: DPIE, Sydney Water, Hunter Water

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Action 6.2 Work collaboratively with local water utilities to reduce risks to town water supplies

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Continue to regulate and support regional NSW’s local water utilities in their provision of safe, secure and sustainable water supply and sewerage services.

Responsibility: DPIE

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Action 6.3 Deliver a new Town Water Risk Reduction Program

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Establish a dedicated team resourced for two years to work in partnership with councilNSW Health, local water utilities to develop and implement long-term solutions to the most fundamental barriers within state and local government that prevent effective and strategic risk management in urban water services in regional NSW.
  • Co-design through workshops and working groups, an improved regulatory framework for local water utilities, including making
    systemic improvements to the requirements for Local Water Utility strategic planning (Integrated Water Cycle Management) by
    July 2022.
  • Work with the sector to explore the pros and cons of alternative funding models, including a needs-based Community Service
    Obligation funding model.

Responsibility: DPIE, NSW Health, EPA, Office of Local Government, Local Government

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Action 6.4 Continue to deliver the Safe and Secure Water Program

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Invest more than $500 million over the next eight years to support local water utilities reduce risks in urban water systems through the Safe and Secure Water Program.

Responsibility: DPIE

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Action 6.5 Continue to work with suppliers of drinking water to effectively manage drinking water quality and safety

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Continue to support water utilities to assess water quality risks and implement Drinking Water Management Systems.
  • Continue to provide guidance and support to private water suppliers and water carters on managing drinking water safety in their operations.
  • Improve consistency of drinking water quality regulation and incident management for local water utilities.
  • Continue to provide expert advice, training and support to water utilities on drinking water quality management.

Responsibility: NSW Health, Water utilities

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Action 6.6 A new state-wide Water Efficiency Framework and Program

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Consult on the draft Water Efficiency Framework with local water utilities and the community and commence roll-out in metro and regional areas.

Responsibility: DPIE, Local Government

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Action 6.7 Proactive support for water utilities to diversify sources of water

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Ensure all metropolitan water strategies, regional water strategies and water management guidance take an ‘all options on the table’ approach to water planning. Provide information to local water utilities to improve understanding of the planning and lead in times required should alternate water sources be considered.
  • Work with local water utilities and identify policy and regulatory barriers to recycled and stormwater use and commence the
    development of a policy framework for the regulation of purified recycled water and stormwater harvesting in consultation with
    water utilities.
  • Identify opportunities to share and learn from diversification projects, enabling peer to peer information sharing.

Responsibility: DPIE, Local Government

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Action 6.8 Investigate and enable managed aquifer recharge

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Analyse options for implementing a managed aquifer recharge framework in NSW for consultation with stakeholders and the community.

Responsibility: DPIE

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Action 6.9 Promote and improve Integrated Water Cycle Management

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Develop and implement all regional and metropolitan water strategies based on an Integrated Water Cycle Management Strategy (IWCM) approach.
  • Finalise the Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy that gives effect to place based consideration of integrated water cycle management. This will be underpinned by a Public Space and Urban Design Guide that will provide design guidance and criteria for large-scale developments on integrated water cycle management.
  • Make system improvements to the regulatory framework and guidance and support to enable local water utilities to implement a
    comprehensive IWCM approach.

Responsibility: DPIE

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Action 6.10 Enable private sector involvement in the NSW water sector

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Assess feedback from targeted consultation with key stakeholders to inform the final amendments to legislation and regulation.
  • Develop a new Water Industry Competition Regulation and place on public exhibition.

Responsibility: DPIE, IPART

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Action 6.11 Foster the circular economy in our cities and towns

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Release the NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041.
  • Continue to deliver the Waste Less, Recycle More Program.
  • Give effect to integration of Net Zero principles and circular economy through the proposed Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy.

Responsibility: DPIE, EPA

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Priority 7. Enable a future focused, capable and innovative water sector

Action 7.1 Pilot new technologies to increase our water options

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Pilot a smart greywater recycling and smart meter system (Hydraloop). Smart meters and loggers will be installed in up to 250 homes to capture and analyse high resolution data to inform water demand forecasting, water efficiency programs and water restriction  effectiveness, and approximately 30 grey water recycling systems will be trialled aiming to recycle 30% of household water use.
  • Encourage market innovation to improve the coverage, choice and cost of water metering and telemetry technology.

Responsibility: DPIE, Hunter Water, Sydney Water

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Action 7.2 Collaborate to harness new research, innovation and technology

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Maintain a water science strategy and prospectus that provides sector wide guidance on future science, research and development.
  • Initiate, develop and deliver science partnerships in support of enhanced water resource management outcomes with universities, research organisations, industry and the community.

Responsibility: DPIE

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Action 7.3 Invest in water sector workforce and capability

What we will deliver in 2021-22:

  • Partner with Local Water Utilities and the training sector to commence development of the Water and Wastewater Training Strategy.
  • Identify and reduce barriers for local waterGovernment, utilities to work together and share resources for training and development.
  • Identify registered training organisations to offer operator training in regional NSW to address current critical shortages and to ensure a sustainable and competitive training market in the future.
  • Explore options for providing greater opportunities for employment of First Nations/Aboriginal People in the water sector.
  • Provide sponsored traineeships for regionally based First Nations/Aboriginal People to secure certification for meter and telemetry installation.
  • Develop resources for councillor awareness and training about water and sewerage services and risks.

Responsibility: DPIE, Training NSW, Office of Local Government, DRNSW

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