Policies, Guidelines and Programs

The EPA issues reports, guidelines and other documents about water management. These publications guide us in our work, and help other agencies, business, and the community protect our water.

Risk-based framework for considering waterway health in strategic land-use planning

A Risk-based Framework for Considering Waterway Health Outcomes in Strategic Land-use Planning Decisions (the Framework) has been developed to provide a structured approach to considering the potential impacts of land use change on a waterway and to identify appropriate management responses to ensure that desired uses of a waterway can be met. The framework brings together existing policy and guidelines in the National Water Quality Management Strategy in a risk based framework. By using the framework, practitioners can identify least-cost management responses across all sources of waterway impacts to meet specified water quality and river health outcomes in a robust, evidence-based decision making framework.

Waterway health is influenced by a range of planning and management decisions on land use practices, potable water management, sewerage and industrial wastewater treatment and disposal and management of stormwater. Well-planned and designed stormwater control measures and sewerage systems can maintain or improve waterway health and support community values and uses of waterways as well as broader objectives such as healthier, more resilient communities and cities.

As catchments are developed the volume of stormwater entering waterways increases and carries with it increased loads of pollutants and pathogens. New wastewater discharges associated with industrial activities and sewerage management also occur. When these changes are not well planned and managed they can lead to algal blooms and excessive aquatic weed growth resulting in degraded waterways that the community cannot always use for desired uses such as recreation, commercial activities and for healthy aquatic ecosystems.

Strategic planners and water utilities are encouraged to use the Framework in land use decisions and the planning and design of water services and infrastructure.

Approved methods for the sampling and analysis of water pollutants in NSW

The Approved Methods for the Sampling and Analysis of Water Pollutants in New South Wales (PDF 165KB) (Gazette no 54 of 12 March 2004 p 1150) lists the sampling and analysis methods to be used when complying with a requirement by, or under, environment protection legislation, or a licence or notice under that legislation, to test for the presence or concentration of matter in water and the volume, depth and flow of water or wastewater.

The environment protection legislation includes, among other legislation, the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 and regulations under it. This document also may be referred to in conditions attached to statutory instruments issued by the EPA.

Approval to use alternative methods must be sought in writing from the EPA. In the first instance, licensees should contact the EPA regional office that issues the licence.

The EPA is currently reviewing and is seeking input from stakeholders on a revised draft which updates the current document and provides clearer guidance on when EPA approval should be sought for the use of modified or alternative methods.

Considering environmental values of water when issuing prevention notices

The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) was amended in May 2006 to strengthen the consideration of water quality impacts when regulating activities that cause, have caused or are likely to cause water pollution.

Section 96(3A) of the POEO Act provides that:

'The appropriate regulatory authority, when determining the action to be specified in a [prevention] notice relating to an activity that causes, is likely to cause or has caused water pollution, must consider:

  1. the environmental values of water affected by the activity, and
  2. the practical measures that could be taken to restore or maintain those environmental values, and
  3. if the appropriate regulatory authority is not the EPA-any guidelines issued by the EPA to the authority relating to the exercise of functions under this section.'

The guideline Considering Environmental Values of Water when Issuing Prevention Notices (PDF 634KB), is used by the EPA and other regulators when issuing prevention notices under section 96 of the POEO Act.

Use of Effluent by Irrigation

Effluent irrigation can make a significant contribution to reducing water demand, improving soil condition and reducing the amount of pollutants discharged into our waterways, providing it is managed to protect the environment and human health.

Environmental Guidelines: Use of Effluent by Irrigation (PDF 2MB) provides guidance on the beneficial use of effluent and outlines how this can be accomplished in an ecologically sustainable and socially responsible way. This guideline is educational and advisory, not a mandatory or regulatory tool, and does not introduce new environmental requirements.

Indicators of Sustainability for Effluent Reuse in the Intensive Livestock Industries: Piggeries and Cattle Feedlots is available from Australian Pork Limited (APL). This report, resulting from a partnership project between APL, Meat and Livestock Australia and the EPA, identifies indicator parameters and monitoring procedures for individual piggeries and cattle feedlots based on site-specific environmental risk. The information in the document also will be useful to other industry sectors.

National Guidelines for Water Recycling have been released through the National Water Quality Management Strategy and adopted by NSW. These guidelines focus on human health risk assessment and management and are most relevant where there is human exposure to recycled water such as in urban reuse schemes. Where there are regulatory systems in place that relate to recycling, such as the NSW Water Industry Competition Act 2006 and Local Government Act 1993, the regulatory agency should be consulted to clarify requirements.

The EPA has completed a review of effluent reuse management practices to help improve environmental performance. This review focused on requirements for effluent reuse in environment protection licences across various industry types within NSW. For more information see Effluent reuse management: Strategic environmental compliance and performance review.

Use and disposal of biosolids

Biosolids are an organic solid by-product from treating sewage. Solids produced during the various stages of sewage treatment, often called waste-water solids or sewage sludge, are collected and further processed. Once they are suitable for use they are called biosolids.

The NSW Government's biosolids management policy is to encourage the beneficial use of biosolids where it is safe and practicable and where it provides the best environmental outcome. In cases where beneficial use is not possible, biosolids must be disposed of safely and lawfully.

The NSW Environmental guidelines: Use and disposal of biosolids products (PDF 556KB) help planners, designers and operators of sewerage systems, and those involved with the processing and end-use of biosolids products, by establishing requirements for the beneficial use and disposal of biosolids products to land in NSW.

Since the release of these guidelines in October 1997 there have been changes to the overarching legislation for environmental protection in NSW and changes to the regulation of biosolids use and disposal. For the current regulatory requirements you should refer to waste regulation, licensing and compliance.

Licensing guidelines for sewage treatment plants

Licences for sewage treatment plants cover entire sewage treatment systems, including overflows from pumping stations and reticulation systems. This licensing approach aims to minimise the potential harm to human health and the environment from the release of sewage into the environment. Sewer overflows are one of the most significant diffuse sources of water pollution in urban areas.

Licensing Guidelines for Sewage Treatment Systems (PDF 174KB) help licensees in non-metropolitan areas, generally local councils and other water authorities, understand the process for licensing whole sewage treatment systems. The requirements described in this document relate to sewage treatment systems other than those operated by Sydney and Hunter Water, for which a separate licensing process has been completed.

The guidelines explain

  • what sewage treatment system licences are
  • the potential impacts of sewer overflows on human health and the environment
  • the EPA's approach to sewer overflow management
  • licensing techniques to minimise sewer overflows
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