History and context of managing water for the environment

Three major foundation programs have influenced the development of environmental water management in NSW.

  1. NSW RiverBank
  2. The Rivers Environmental Restoration Program  
  3. NSW Wetland Recovery Program

In addition, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) was formed in 2008 to purchase and manage water for the environment in the Murray-Darling Basin. Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) works in partnership with CEWH to deliver water for the environment in NSW.

NSW RiverBank

This program invested $105 million, between 2005 and 2011, to protect inland rivers and wetlands. It was the first government program in Australia set up to purchase water for the conservation of wetlands and rivers.

NSW RiverBank licences are currently managed by the Office of Environment and Heritage Environmental Water program.

Riverbank was delivered according to a Business Plan. Part A of the Business Plan (PDF 149KB) outlined the vision, objectives and expected outputs of RiverBank and established the basic philosophy, processes and business model.

Rivers Environmental Restoration Program (RERP)

The $181-million Rivers Environmental Restoration Program (RERP) was funded jointly by the NSW ($101.5 million) and Commonwealth ($79.62 million) governments.

RERP aimed to arrest the decline of some of the most important and threatened wetland habitats in NSW by funding the acquisition and management of water for the environment. It focused on five nationally important wetlands for bird breeding and species-diversity:

  • Lowbidgee floodplain
  • Lachlan wetlands
  • Macquarie marshes
  • Gwydir wetlands
  • Narran Lakes in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Investment from RERP contributed to the management of water for the environment through surveys, decision-support systems, infrastructure and community engagement programs.

The Rivers Environmental Restoration Program final report (PDF 3.2MB) outlines the significant achievements of the program.

NSW Wetland Recovery Program (WRP)

The NSW and Australian governments jointly funded the NSW Wetland Recovery Program with a total investment of $26.8 million.

The WRP delivered a suite of projects to restore the ecological health of the Gwydir Wetlands and the Macquarie Marshes, such as:

  • the Aboriginal cultural values of Macquarie Marshes and Gwydir Wetlands  
  • the development of adaptive environmental management plans  
  • ecological research  
  • the purchase of water for the environment
  • compliance auditing of structures in the Macquarie Marshes and a pipeline scheme for Gingham, undertaken by the then NSW Office of Water 
  • guidelines for grazing in the Gwydir wetlands and Macquarie Marshes developed by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.