Protected and special areas

Protecting Greater Sydney's drinking water catchment.

Protecting the health of the catchment

Restricting access to protect water quality in Greater Sydney.

Within the Greater Sydney catchment areas, there are declared special and protected areas. Public access and activities are restricted in these areas to protect water quality.

These Special Areas cover approximately 364,000 hectares of mostly unspoiled native bushland. Collaborative partnerships with local councils, Aboriginal land councils, landholders, government agencies, industry and the community are important to the management of these areas.

The majority of the protected and special areas are off-limits or restricted to the general public. They are divided into three protection zones with different restrictions:

  • Special Area lands that do not permit access to the public
  • Special Area lands that allow restricted access to the public, for example, walking activities only
  • Controlled Areas, that are generally outside of the catchment Special Areas, for example, the land at Warragamba around the water supply infrastructure and the pipelines

WaterNSW and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) jointly manage the special areas. WaterNSW has responsibility for the quality and quantity of water in catchment areas. NPWS is the primary conservation agency in NSW and is the landowner of reserves within some of the special areas.


Consent to enter the special areas

WaterNSW will only grant consent to enter these lands for individuals, companies or groups who can show that their proposed activity meets ALL of the below standard assessment criteria and specific criteria for the relevant category:

  • It is for an activity that cannot be carried out elsewhere
  • It is for an activity or purpose that will benefit WaterNSW's management of the Special and Controlled Areas, or provide a broader public benefit
  • It will not compromise the integrity, operation or management of any WaterNSW infrastructure or catchment areas
  • The activity will not:
    • lower the quantity of water in the water storages or catchments
    • lower the quality of surface and groundwater inflows to water storages or catchments
    • have a negative impact on the ecological integrity of the Special Areas.
  • Must meet the requirements under one of the permitted categories (PDF, 1009.89 KB).

Minimum requirements for consent applications

As a minimum requirement you must attach to your consent application the following documents:

  1. Map A detailed map showing the area of the proposed activity.
  2. Safe Work Plan (SWP) - A safe work plan for the type of activity and location, including risk assessments and safe work method statements. This document should reference the Review of Environmental Factors (REF) or Ready Reckoner Checklist (RRC) for the activity, if relevant.
    If you have a contractor undertaking the activity/work for you a copy of the contractors documents are also required.
    The WorkCover NSW website provides information and guidance on how to manage work place risks. A code of practice is also available on their website.
  3. Insurance - A current insurance certificate or certificate of currency covering both public and products liability, professional indemnity.
    If you have a contractor undertaking the activity/work for you a copy of the contractors documents are also required.

Applying to enter

Please note, WaterNSW may take up to 28 business days after receiving an application to determine a consent application. Please allow for this time when choosing the date of access from on the application form.

If your application is incomplete or we need more information, the assessment period will start when we receive the extra information. If you do not provide any information we ask for within 28 business days of the request, your application will be refused.

Apply now

After processing

WaterNSW will advise you of the determination of your consent application in writing. If we provide written consent, you will receive a consent letter telling you that conditional consent is granted with a list of conditions of entry.

If WaterNSW grants consent for entry, we may require you to:

  • supply more information
  • comply with specific conditions
  • limit your entry
  • attend a WaterNSW induction
  • have a Safe Work Plan
  • provide a copy of your public liability insurance certificate of currency.

Not complying with any conditions of consent may be an offence under the Water NSW Act 2014 and regulations, or the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 and regulations. WaterNSW will consider any breach of conditions seriously and may take action to address the breach.

If WaterNSW does not approve your consent application, you will receive a letter telling you that your application was unsuccessful and entry is refused.

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WaterNSW acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands and waters on which we work and pay our respects to all elders past, present and emerging. Learn more