The New South Wales Government has released the draft of the state’s first-ever long-term plan for sustainably managing groundwater resources.
The draft New South Wales Groundwater Strategy is a priority action under the New South Wales Water Strategy and builds on 30 years of world-leading groundwater management, further refining the state’s existing and robust groundwater framework.
Using the latest available science, it will set the strategic direction for groundwater management over the next 20 plus years, putting actions in place to secure its continuing quality and supply.
It will also bolster recognition of Aboriginal people’s rights to access and use groundwater, and for the first time, culturally significant and valuable sites that are groundwater-dependent will be recognised and protected.
Executive Director Water Strategy and Policy for the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment, Kaia Hodge, said the strategy will be on display until 14 August giving the community an opportunity to have its say.
“Groundwater is essential to the people, businesses and environment of New South Wales, and this strategy will ensure our communities have the groundwater resources they need into the long-term future,” Ms Hodge said.
“More than 250 regional towns across our state rely on groundwater for their day-to-day water needs.
“Groundwater directly contributes nearly $1 billion to our yearly economy by supporting the agricultural sector and other industries, and groundwater supplies close to 10 per cent of New South Wales’s drinking water.”
“First Nations people and Aboriginal communities also have deep cultural and social connections to groundwater, which plays a key role in their caring for Country.
“This is a vital resource that we need to manage sustainably and protect, especially as we face challenges like a more variable climate, and more pressure on our resources as our towns and cities continue to grow, particularly off the back of the pandemic.”
Ms Hodge said New South Wales has more than 450 groundwater sources from which more than 3,000 billion litres of water could be extracted for use every year – including for cultural use, critical needs, and town water supply.
That is the equivalent of 1.2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of water.
“About 6.5 million hectares, or about eight per cent of the state’s land surface, contains valuable ecosystems which are dependent on groundwater – including many wetlands, springs and lakes that support our unique plant and animal species,” Ms Hodge said.
“But some of these sources are becoming more vulnerable, especially as water from rivers becomes scarcer as our climate changes.
“We must act now to future-proof these precious resources, and I urge all members of the community and stakeholders to have their say to help us finalise the strategy.”
The draft New South Wales Groundwater Strategy will be on display from 5 July to 14 August 2022. As part of the exhibition process there will be webinars held during July.
For more information and to register your attendance visit draft NSW Groundwater Water Strategy.