Managing floodplains

We support councils and communities to help reduce flood risk.

Flooding is a natural process that occurs when heavy rainfall causes water levels in waterways to rise and inundate low-lying land.

Flooding is a serious problem in towns and cities, where it can have significant consequences for individuals and the community. These include damage to property and infrastructure, economic hardship, trauma and emotional distress.

Flooding in urban and rural New South Wales costs our economy about $200 million each year, and the human impact is even greater.


Your council's role

Managing flood risk is everyone's responsibility. Communities need to be prepared for flooding, understand how to respond to flood threats and recover from the impacts of floods. We can reduce the impacts of floods by taking action before they occur.

Your local council has 2 key responsibilities:

  • they carry out studies to understand flood risk, examine options to manage it, and keep the community informed about flooding, supporting emergency management planning.
  • they take flooding into account when controlling the development of flood-prone land and in carrying out management actions, such as the investigation, design, construction, operation and maintenance of flood mitigation works.

Our role

The NSW Government, through the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water and the State Emergency Service (NSW SES), plays an important role in managing flood risk across the state before, during and after floods.

The department has experienced staff working across the state to fulfil our key roles in this area.

Building the resilience of local communities

We work with local councils to help them to better understand and manage the risks and the costs of flooding and to consider flood risk in their decision-making. This includes supporting the NSW State Emergency Service in fulfilling its role as the state's flood combat agency.

Developing policies and guidelines

We prepare policies and guidelines to help councils manage flood risk. This includes the 2023 Flood Risk Management Manual, the NSW Government's Flood Prone Land Policy (see the Flood Risk Management Manual) and its supporting flood risk management toolkit. We work with a range of Australian, state and local government agencies and the flood risk management industry to develop this material and policy.

Managing flood-prone land in coastal and inland New South Wales

We work with local government to better manage flood-prone land in coastal areas and urban communities in inland New South Wales. We provide funding and technical assistance to prepare and implement flood risk management plans through the NSW Government's Floodplain Management Program.

Supporting rural floodplain planning

We support DPE Water to create better processes to manage rural floodplains.

Managing the collection of water level data

We manage the water level data collection at over 500 sites with Manly Hydraulics Laboratory. This data helps with issuing flood forecasts and warnings to NSW communities and local flood investigations.

Apply for a floodplain management program grant