Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Water Pollution Overview

Water pollution can threaten both human health and the health of our waterways. Our water resources are of major environmental, social and economic value to NSW and when water is polluted the value of the resource can be reduced.

Water pollution can be caused by both point source (such as industrial and treated sewage discharges) and diffuse sources (such as stormwater runoff from agriculture and urban areas).

The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) provides the statutory framework for managing water pollution in NSW. It is supported by the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2009, which among other functions prescribes certain matters for the purposes of the definition of water pollution.

There is a broad allocation of responsibilities under the POEO Act between the EPA, local councils and other public authorities. The EPA is the appropriate regulatory authority for:

  • activities listed in Schedule 1 of the POEO Act and the premises where they are carried out
  • activities carried out by a State or public authority
  • other activities in relation to which a licence regulating water pollution is issued.

In nearly all other cases, the regulatory authority is the relevant local council.

For further information on diffuse source water pollution see Diffuse source water pollution.

Chapter 4 - Water of the NSW State of the Environment 2012 report provides a comprehensive summary of water quality status and trends in NSW waterways.

More information on the following water pollution topics

Page last updated: 13 May 2015