Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Law


The objective of this research project was to identify and critically examine the regulatory mechanisms that authorise, and those that restrict, what is done with water in the Sydney Region and how it is done. Four principal areas of investigation were identified: how water is used, where it is sourced, how those water sources are managed, and how water is supplied to consumers.

The research traced the evolution of a national urban water management framework through the 1990s and observed how the national framework is implemented in the Sydney Region.

A complex pattern of urban water regulation emerged from observations made in the course of the study. The tools of the framework include traditional forms of regulation (the ‘hard law’ of legislation) and newer forms of controls and inducements (the ‘soft law’ of intergovernmental agreements, guidelines, non-statutory plans and policy statements). Two main themes were identified to guide research: the model of integrated urban water cycle management that applied to new as well as traditional water sources and water products; and the level of transparency and accountability in political and administrative decision-making associated with water management in the Sydney Region.

The study suggests that a regulatory mechanism comprising an amalgam of soft and hard law is appropriate for the management of water in the Sydney Region. It proposes that such a mechanism should include all water sources (fresh, saline and waste) and all water products; it should provide for clear vesting of the right to the control, use and flow of all water in a single entity – a water manager – to ensure management of water from all sources transcends political discord; and, it should incorporate fundamental administrative law values in a system of flexible and accountable water planning. The study concludes that a regulatory mechanism with these characteristics would be capable of delivering integrated urban cycle management for the Sydney Region.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.