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Water is essential to human life and the health of the environment. The Hawkesbury-Nepean River is one of the most important river systems in NSW. It is the largest estuary system in the Sydney Region, and its complex ecosystems provide habitat for a multitude of plant and animal species.
Since European settlement it has been increasingly relied upon to meet the requirements of our growing population. It now provides 97% of the fresh drinking water for more than 4.8 million people living in and around Sydney. The river also supports the agriculture and aquaculture industries that provide much of Sydney's fresh food, as well as supporting numerous other mining, manufacturing and processing industries as well as recreation and tourism industry.
As a result of development and population growth, over time the Hawkesbury-Nepean River system has been placed under increasing pressure which has seen the health of the river system decline. Population growth across Sydney has resulted in large volumes of water being taken out of the river for drinking water, irrigation and industrial uses. Pollution and high nutrient levels from agricultural, urban and industrial runoff as well as treated sewerage from the number of sewerage treatment plants has contributed to degrading the river system.
The Hawkesbury-Nepean is a catchment of national significance. The catchment flows through areas of Sydney, supplying the city and surrounding regions with food, water and other resources. The Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment covers more than 22,000 square kilometres (2.2 million hectares). The river flows from south of Goulburn to Broken Bay, approximately 470 kilometres in distance, making it the longest coastal catchment in NSW.
What is a catchment?
A catchment is an area of land, usually surrounded by mountains or hills, over which water flows and is collected. When water reaches the lowest point in a catchment, it eventually flows into a creek, river, lake, lagoon, wetland or the ocean.