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How to comply

Which water regulation body should I speak to?

NSW has four agencies which share the licensing, management and regulation of water and the water industry.

Below is a summary of what each agency does to help you approach the right one for your needs.

Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR)

NRAR is NSW’s independent water regulator. Its purpose is to ensure compliance with and enforcement of the state’s water laws.

NRAR’s main duties include:

  • ensuring compliance with the NSW water laws. We do this by educating and encouraging water users who want to comply and taking action against wrongdoers
  • collaborating with Commonwealth agencies such as the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to share information and undertake joint compliance monitoring and enforcement activities.

Department of Planning and Environment–Water

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment - Water is responsible for making the state’s water laws and policies.

It develops, assesses and recommends changes to NSW water laws, water sharing and water resource plans, and water management rules. These laws, plans and rules form the regulatory framework that all water users and operators must work within and which NRAR enforces.

The department identifies ways to improve medium and long-term regional water security by putting together regional water strategies.

It also leads collaboration and negotiations with Commonwealth agencies and other states on behalf of NSW.

The department's duties include:

  • water planning, policy and regulation: making the law and regulatory frameworks to manage the state’s surface and groundwater resources, including regional water strategies, water sharing plans and water resource plans.
  • regional water security: finding ways to improve medium- and long- term regional water security through regional water strategies
  • providing water licensing and approval services to certain water users including the issuing of controlled activity approvals (for works on waterfront land) and assessing and advising on the impacts of state significant development
  • government relations: leading collaboration and negotiations with Commonwealth agencies and other bodies on behalf of NSW, including the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA)
  • working with the community and water users: to further develop existing water laws and regulatory frameworks, including regional water strategies, water sharing plans and water resource plans
  • managing local water utilities: ensuring that water and wastewater services provided by regional NSW’s local water utilities are safe, secure and sustainable.


WaterNSW is a state-owned corporation that maintains and operates the assets that supply water to its customers and communities across NSW. WaterNSW manages NSW’s rivers and water supply systems according to the rules by the department’s water group.

Managing more than 40 dams across the state, WaterNSW is responsible for the supply of around two-thirds of all water used in NSW by regional towns, irrigators, Sydney Water and local water utilities.

It also owns and operates the largest surface and groundwater monitoring network in the southern hemisphere and provides transparent information covering 760 water sources via WaterInsights to help its customers and communities better understand water management in NSW.

Besides infrastructure and supply, WaterNSW is responsible for issuing water access licences and associated approvals for:

  • rural landholders
  • rural industries
  • developments or infrastructure which are not state-significant.

For more on licensing see WaterNSW licensing.

Within Greater Sydney, WaterNSW is also responsible for the protection of Greater Sydney’s drinking water catchment, including the protection of special areas and the running of their Science Program to continue research into water quality and catchment protection.

NSW Environment, Energy and Science Group

NSW Environment, Energy and Science (EES) Group manages environmental water within NSW, including planned environmental water allocations made under water sharing plans.  Environmental water supports rivers, wetlands and floodplain health for regional communities and the plants and animals that live there.

Another important role is collaborating with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder on the management of environmental water held by the Commonwealth Government. The agency also convenes and supports Environmental Water Advisory Groups to inform environmental water priorities and planning.

The EES Group also has a significant role in the development of long-term water plans, floodplain management plans and water sharing plans.

For further information on the role and activities of the EESG Group.