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Water is a limited and valuable resource. Careful management is essential to ensure that it will be available in sufficient quantity and quality for future needs. Water systems provide services for agriculture, industry and town water, as well as recreation and hydro-electric power.

Water is also a marketable commodity that can be bought and sold. This means that water will be used more efficiently and for the best possible value.

Rivers and creeks are vital living ecosystems that carry water from catchments into estuaries and oceans. They support thousands of species of fish, frogs, aquatic plants and insects, while yielding water for drinking, agriculture, industry and recreation.

Water extracted from rivers contributes to the economic wealth of the region, but extracting too much water may have severe impacts on aquatic ecosystems, especially during periods of low river flows.

Natural aquatic ecosystems have adapted over tens of thousands of years to natural flow regimes and extraction of water should not compromise the basic ecosystem processes supported by these regimes.

Rural landholders in NSW have the right to access water for some basic purposes without a licence (domestic and stock rights, harvestable rights in farm dams and native title rights). This is known as Basic Water Rights. An increase in the subdivision of land for rural residential use has dramatically increased the number of landholders who are able to extract water from water sources.

In order for our water supply to continue to provide these important services, we must ensure that:

  • the ownership of water, including access rights and responsibilities, is clearly defined
  • the cost of environmental flows reflects the value of the limited resource and the cost of managing it
  • all those who benefit from this resource, both directly and indirectly, should meet these costs
  • water storage and extraction is balanced with the natural resource requirements of water sources
  • water is used efficiently
  • diverse aquatic ecosystems are protected and sustained
  • priority areas for improving water flow and quality are identified.


Rivers are important living, functioning ecosystems that carry water from the catchment into estuaries and oceans. Rivers and creeks provide important habitat for fish, frogs, aquatic plants and insects.


Groundwater systems provide an important resource for town water supply and irrigation. Groundwater is also an important source of water flow in rivers, especially in times of very low flow, and can be vital to the survival of Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems. The impacts of inappropriate land or water use often take some time to become apparent in groundwater quality. Sustainable and responsible land and water use are essential to protect groundwater sources from pollution and ensure the availability of clean groundwater in the future.

How LLS can help

Actions coordinated by Local Land Services through regional Catchment Action Plans are helping to improve water quality and fish passage, and increase riparian vegetation and aquatic habitat. The flow on benefits of these actions will improve biodiversity, preserve soils and protect and improve marine and estuarine environments.

Industry collaborators and resources

NSW Department of Primary Industries
LLS work closely with DPI to provide up to date technical advice and support.

NSW Office of Water
The NSW Office of Water in DPI is responsible for the management of the State's surface water and groundwater resources. Visit the Office of Water’s website for information on water management, water sharing plans and water licensing.

Natural Resources Commission
The Natural Resources Commission provides the NSW Government with independent advice on managing natural resources.