The responsibility for regulating water management largely falls to the States. However, the Australian Government has assumed an increasingly active role in this area
There are opportunities to comment at strategic planning, regulatory development, and monitoring and enforcement stages. For more information about water management, see our Fact Sheet on water management.
Responding to government proposals
The national, State and local governments regularly invite input from the community on proposed changes to environmental laws.
- To comment on draft policies and plans under development, including water sharing plans, water management licences and water accounting reports, visit the NSW DPI - Water website.
- To comment on draft policies or plans regarding the health and management of Sydney water catchment areas and waterways, visit the Sydney Catchment Authority website.
- To comment on activities likely to impact on matters of national environmental significance, such as threatened species that use water sources as habitat or Ramsar wetlands, visit the Australian Environment Department EPBC Act website.
Monitoring and enforcement
Both governments and proponents have responsibility for monitoring the impacts of activities on native plants and animals. You can also monitor the impacts of activities on the environment, such as water and air quality.
Before reporting suspected breaches of environmental laws you will require evidence. It is also important to remember that the law contains certain exceptions and defences to offences. The most common defence is that a person has a permit or licence to take the action which would otherwise be an offence, such as a licence to extract water. If you are unsure whether an action is an offence or not, contact the EDO NSW Environmental Law Line.
National and State enforcement authorities can issue stop work notices in many cases where unauthorised activities are occurring that threaten harm to protected species or areas.
- Report breaches of water management legislation to the NSW DPI - Water. Breaches include:
- Water theft.
- Harming a water source.
- Report a suspected breach of a water licence to the NSW DPI - Water. Examples of breaches include:
- Taking water from a water source without a licence.
- Carrying out works on a water source without a licence.
- Failing to comply with the conditions of a water access licence.
- Report a suspected breach of national environmental law to the Australian Environment Department. For more information about how the environment is protected under national environmental law, see our Fact Sheet on the EPBC Act. Examples of breaches include:
- Taking an action that is likely to have a significant impact on a Ramsar wetland.
- Taking an action that is likely to have a significant impact on a nationally listed migratory species.
- Report harm of nationally protected species to the Australian Environment Department. Examples of illegal activity include:
- Taking an action that will have a significant impact on a nationally listed threatened species, population or ecological community.
- Taking an action that will have a significant impact on a nationally listed migratory species.
- Report harm of a State protected species to the Environment Line on 131 555. Examples of illegal activity include:
- Harming an animal that is a threatened species, population or an ecological community. For more information about how threatened species and ecological communities are protected in NSW, see our Fact Sheet on threatened species and ecological communities.
- Report pollution incidents to the Environment Line on 131 555. If you are concerned about water pollution, you should also contact the individual or company to request an explanation and ask them to fix the problem.
Under certain environmental laws, any person has the right to bring proceedings in a Court to remedy or restrain a breach. In NSW, this is mainly to the Land and Environment Court. For breaches of national environmental law, it is the Federal Court. See How can I have my say? for more information. You should contact the EDO NSW Environmental Law Line to request some initial legal advice if you would like to take this step.
Shaping environmental laws
Many environmental laws merely set out the framework for protecting the environment and rely on community involvement for proper protection. You can proactively seek to improve environmental laws through these processes.
- Join the NSW Boards and Committees register, which is a list of people interested in serving on NSW Government boards and committees, such as reserve trusts for the protection of certain areas of environmental and heritage significance.
The national, State and local governments provide continuing opportunities to be involved in the laws designed to protect the environment.
- Visit the Australian Government’s public consultation portal, where a range of proposals that may be relevant to water are exhibited for public comment.
- Visit the NSW Department of Primary Industries Have Your Say website, where a range of proposals that may relate to water are exhibited for public comment.
- Engage in the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Community Engagement Forum, where a range of environment and heritage initiatives that may be relevant to water are discussed.
- Visit the NSW Government’s Have Your Say website, where a range of proposals that may be relevant to water are discussed, and exhibited for public comment.