Water research

Our scientists play an important role in delivering the science to protect, monitor and enhance NSW freshwater and marine environments.

View over paddocks to the estuary and coast at Gerringong NSW

For example, our scientists:

  • monitor the responses of plants and animals to water that flows to our iconic wetlands, such as the Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve
  • assess the health of estuaries and waterways in New South Wales to help reduce impacts of development on the environment
  • deliver state-wide coastal data and mapping so decision makers can assess and mitigate the risk of floods, coastal erosion and a changing climate.

Freshwater and wetlands

Department of Planning and Environment (former OEH) scientists monitor our freshwater and wetland environments for a range of partners including councils, environmental water managers, the NSW Environment Protection Authority and water utilities. We also provide valuable data such maps to help contribute to improve the health of wetlands and rivers in New South Wales.

Thirlmere Lakes Research Program

DPE committed $1.9 million over 4 years to this research program that provided greater understanding of the fluctuating water levels at Thirlmere Lakes. Research partners included the University of NSW, University of Wollongong and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

Thirlmere Lakes research

Kosciuszko National Park water quality monitoring

Good water quality is crucial for river health. In a place like Kosciuszko National Park, with its popular ski resorts, water quality can be unintentionally compromised by visitors enjoying the park.

DPE scientists help monitor this environmental impact, by collecting water samples and observing macro invertebrates that live in the water. This assessment of water quality upstream versus water quality downstream – provides an accurate indicator of visitors’ environmental impact.

Kosciuszko National Park water quality monitoring

Monitoring environmental water flows

As the State's environmental water custodian, DPE’s environmental water portfolio plays an important role in improving the health of rivers, wetlands and floodplains across New South Wales. Our scientists play a key role in helping water managers better manage water for our environment by assessing the effects water flows on frogs, waterbirds and native plants.

Mud, dust and creepy crawlies

NSW wetland inventory

DPE scientists conducted a pilot project to build a comprehensive inventory of all wetlands in New South Wales to improve the way they’re managed. The inventory will identify and map the extent and type of wetlands across New South Wales and make high-quality data and information about wetlands available to everyone.

NSW wetland inventory

Monitoring estuary health

We collect and analyse data to help us monitor the health of NSW estuaries and the effectiveness of management programs.

Our scientists carry out extensive research on the habitats, biodiversity and potential threats to estuaries. We collect, compare, analyse and evaluate data on these complex ecosystems, measuring and recording their physical characteristics and overall condition.

Better planning for healthy waterways

Healthy waterways provide essential services to support more liveable cities and healthy, resilient communities. Our scientists have developed a risk-based protocol that decision-makers, councils and environmental regulators can use to design development controls such as stormwater management to manage the impact of land-use activities on the health of NSW waterways.

Risk-based framework for considering waterway health outcomes in strategic land-use planning

Creating a seafloor map for NSW

Our beaches are one of New South Wales’ greatest assets with people travelling from across the world to visit them. And yet what lies just beneath the waves is not well understood.

Our coastal scientists are undertaking a 4-year project to acquire new high-resolution data of the seafloor that will help us better understand the shape and nature of the seabed adjacent to our state’s beaches.

Offshore mapping

Predicting waves along NSW beaches

Understanding the wave conditions along our beaches is important for predicting coastal hazards from storm events and can even alert surfers to best swells. We manage the NSW Coastal Data Network Program and collaborate with the Manly Hydraulics Laboratory to deliver wave data from a network of Waverider buoys located 6–12 kilometres offshore from Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour, Crowdy Head, Sydney, Port Kembla, Batemans Bay and Eden.

NSW Ocean Wave Data Collection Program

Ocean and coastal waves

State-of-the-art marine research vessel

Our scientists manage the best purpose-built nearshore marine research vessel in Australia, the RV Bombora. Used to conduct marine research in New South Wales waters, the RV Bombora is fitted with state-of-the art instruments and can map the bathymetry (depth of water) and hardness of the seafloor using sonar and high-definition video, as well as sample water and sediment.

RV Bombora


Along with the Water Research Laboratory at the University of NSW, we have teamed up to develop CoastSnap – an innovative beach monitoring program that enables the community to get involved and help us monitor change on New South Wales beaches.