Knowledge centre

Research and publications

Water and Wetlands - Knowledge Strategy 2013-17

Knowledge goal: Maintain and improve the extent and condition of wetland, riverine and groundwater systems

The Knowledge Strategy sets priorities for the knowledge needed by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) to support NSW Government and corporate objectives. Water & Wetlands is one of six 'knowledge themes' in the Knowledge Strategy.

Major OEH programs and existing resources can meet some of the priority knowledge needs. Other priorities are aspirational and best achieved through collaboration.

OEH is the lead agency in the delivery of environmental water in NSW. The NSW Office of Water (and the Murray–Darling Basin Authority for the Basin Plan) is responsible for monitoring rivers and groundwater, and implementing Water Sharing Plans. OEH supports the NSW Office of Water in these functions.


The Water & Wetlands knowledge theme aims to provide knowledge to:

  • improve adaptive management for efficient use of environmental water and healthy wetlands and rivers
  • evaluate the current and likely future condition of wetlands, rivers and groundwater
  • set ecological objectives for water-sharing plans that are based on robust science
  • inform floodplain management to meet the needs of multiple users
  • understand how land use and management influences water quality and waterway health.

Major OEH programs to address priority knowledge needs

Ensure targeted and effective allocation of environmental water

  • OEH is improving monitoring techniques and delivering models that predict how ecosystems may respond to proposed watering regimes. This supports the management of environmental water and helps water planners and communities meet their water needs while protecting fragile ecosystems such as wetlands.
  • OEH collaborates with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office to develop and implement long-term monitoring plans for key wetlands in NSW that receive environmental water.

Support management actions by tracking the health of water and wetlands

  • OEH partners with the NSW Office of Water to monitor the condition of wetlands and rivers. This informs management decisions and meets shared responsibilities under the NSW Natural Resources Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Strategy 2010–2015. OEH’s main role is to provide scientific data, assessment services and frameworks that guide decision-making.
  • OEH’s wetland monitoring system enables information flow between stakeholders on the condition and extent of wetlands and their ecosystem services. It includes a trial of 'citizen science', where volunteers contribute valuable data to support rigorous assessments of wetlands.

Improve floodplain management

  • OEH is collaborating with the NSW Office of Water and the NSW Department of Primary Industries to develop floodplain management plans for five northern valleys in the Murray–Darling Basin. The floodplain management plans are part of the Healthy Floodplains Project to protect floodplain flows and improve management of environmental water.
  • Floodplain management plans help landholders to manage flood risk and plan for sustainable development. They offer a framework to coordinate and assess flood works and floodplain harvesting works, to ensure these meet the requirements of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.
  • OEH uses the best-available science to identify and prioritise environmental and cultural assets such as wetlands, rivers, vital wildlife habitat, sites where groundwater is replenished, and Aboriginal places and objects. This work considers the most important pathways for natural and managed water flows to reach these assets. OEH is using this knowledge to map priority areas with different requirements for each management zone. To complement this, OEH will use conservation planning tools to evaluate options to protect biodiversity over the long term.

Opportunities to collaborate with OEH

OEH seeks collaborators and/or funding to address the following priority knowledge needs.

Understand the extent and condition of wetlands and groundwater-dependent ecosystems

  • Complete a comprehensive and systematic inventory of significant wetlands in NSW, to enable better links with national initiatives to protect wetlands. The inventory would document historic and current extent and condition of wetlands, and responses to management actions.
  • Document the location and extent of groundwater-dependent ecosystems in NSW, understand the processes that sustain them, and identify which systems have the most social and economic value. This information will support and enable better management decisions.

Understand and apply the best management tools for aquatic resources

  • Assess potential risks to aquatic ecosystems from existing and proposed developments, including mining. More information about these risks will help streamline assessment processes for proponents, provide assurance to stakeholders, and inform management plans for water and catchments.

Understand acceptable target conditions for aquatic ecosystems

  • Study the natural and cultural values of wetlands, rivers and groundwater-dependent ecosystems. This knowledge will support local communities and agencies to manage these systems, determine targets for sustainable use, and protect Aboriginal cultural heritage.

Understand how wetlands and floodplains function

  • Refine hydrological and hydrodynamic models to support wetland monitoring at indicator sites in the Basin Plan, and predict how these wetlands respond to different watering regimes. This will help water planners, landholders and communities manage environmental water allocations.
  • Calibrate and refine decision-support systems using new remote-sensing methods, to assist local communities in planning and managing their water assets. 
  • Integrate models of wetlands, floodplains and rivers with models of projected climate change, to enable continual improvement of watersharing plans.
  • Improve predictions of the resilience and water requirements of different species and ecosystems, to help communities meet their own water needs and those of the local environment.

Understand and measure progress

  • Inform monitoring, reporting and evaluation processes through field surveys to test the predictions of wetland condition (made using remote-sensing and predictive models).

More information


View: Knowledge Strategy 2013-17

The format and structure of this publication may have been adapted for web delivery.

Page last updated: 14 August 2013