Protecting and managing estuaries

We manage estuaries to protect them from threats including coastal development and natural weather events.

Why we protect estuaries

The health and integrity of estuaries is vital to the proper functioning of the entire catchment ecosystem as well as to the communities that depend on them.

  • Estuaries are valuable environmental assets that are under increasing pressure from development. With more than 80% of New South Wales's population living on or near the coast, coastal council areas are rapidly developing and growing faster than councils elsewhere in the State.
  • Estuaries are at risk from extreme weather events. Climate change projections suggest that extreme rainfall events will increase in frequency and intensity in New South Wales. Extreme rainfall events and large damaging storms can cause flooding in rivers and estuaries as well as flash flooding. They can also cause soil erosion and water pollution, threatening natural estuarine ecosystems, commercial enterprises and public amenity.

How we protect and manage estuaries

To help protect and improve the health of estuaries, the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH)

  • collects scientific data and monitors the physical properties of estuaries
  • provides technical assistance and funding to help local councils plan and implement estuary management projects.

We have collected data on the physical characteristics of 184 estuaries in NSW. We continue to measure and record estuary conditions, including tidal flow and water and quality.

Our scientists have also developed a risk assessment tool, the Coastal Eutrophication Assessment Tool or CERAT, to help protect and preserve the health of estuaries.

We monitor and report on the health of NSW estuaries through the NSW Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Program (MER).

Read more about how we collect information and monitor estuary health.

We work to support local government and communities manage estuaries.

Technical and financial assistance is available for managing risks from coastal hazards, restoring coastal habitats and improving estuary health through our Coastal and Estuary Grants Program. We also provide councils, public authorities and communities with advice about preparing a coastal management program.