Sydney Harbour and Parramatta River

| Contents | Background | Consultation | Objectives | WQOs | RFOs | Glossary | Bibliography | Map | At a Glance |

Why is the Government providing guidelines on environmental objectives?

The NSW Government has brought in wide-ranging reforms to ensure the long-term health of all our waterways. We need action now for a healthy future for both our environment and our economy.

Environmental problems are widespread in our coastal river systems and harbours, including sewer overflows and leaks, excessive nutrient inputs, algal blooms, urban stormwater, acid sulfate soils and declining fish populations.

The community and Government have taken important steps towards healthier waterways. Much has been achieved. Clearly defined, consistent objectives will allow us to better focus these current actions and plan for new ones.

The Government is already implementing many of its water reforms, including putting in place measures to clean up sewage and stormwater in urban areas, coordinating water monitoring programs, introducing a better balance in sharing water between users and the environment, and assessing river stress.

Process for developing interim environmental objectives

In late 1997, the NSW Government released discussion papers called Proposed Interim Environmental Objectives for NSW Waters (EPA 1997) as the basis for a six-month community consultation. The papers gave options for interim water quality and river flow objectives in each catchment, including broad economic evaluations, as a basis for discussion. Seeking the opinions of communities was essential.

More than fifty catchment community discussion meetings and nine special Aboriginal community meetings were held. These were attended by a total of more than 4000 people. The Government received over 810 written submissions, and river and catchment management committees gave valuable feedback on the draft objectives. Section 2 of this report summarises the community's views about the Sydney Harbour and Parramatta River catchment.

After considering the views from this catchment, the Government has developed environmental objectives for the Sydney Harbour and Parramatta River catchment (see Water Quality and River Flow Objectives).

What are Water Quality and River Flow Objectives?

Water quality and river flow objectives represent the community's environmental values and long-term goals for waterways. They describe the physical and chemical conditions of waterways and their physical flow characteristics. They will guide plans and actions to achieve healthy rivers.

Water Quality Objectives (WQOs)

Up to eleven WQOs apply. Each is based on providing the right water quality for the environment and the different uses people have for water. See Water Quality Objectives explained for a more detailed explanation of how Water Quality Objectives should be used.

River flow objectives (RFOs)

Each of the twelve coastal RFOs deals with the way water moves down a river or through an estuary. Each objective aims to improve the health of waterways by recognising the importance of natural flow patterns. Section 5 gives more detail.

Achieving the objectives

The Water Quality and River Flow Objectives will be taken into account by agencies, councils and Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) in developing actions to address waterway health.

CMAs can consider these objectives in developing Catchment Action Plans (CAPs) See link to planning booklet

Planning authorities can consider these objectives in developing strategic plans and LEPs. See link to planning booklet

The Government's existing river health programs are already contributing to achieving the water quality and river flow objectives. Similarly, many individuals, communities and local councils are taking action to achieve healthy rivers and estuaries. All these groups will continue these activities and implement actions identified in plans.

Environmental monitoring is essential for measuring progress towards healthy rivers and estuaries. A strategy for statewide water monitoring is being developed through the State Water Monitoring Coordination Committee. The Government has established the Harbourwatch monitoring program, which provides up-to-date information on the state of the Harbour. There is also monitoring by Sydney Water in relation to sewer overflows, and some monitoring by community groups and local councils-which tends to be local in scope.

This page was published 1 May 2006