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Environment Protection Authority

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Environment protection licences

Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme

Working together to protect river water quality and sustain economic development

The EPA carried out a ten-year statutory review of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme) Regulation 2002 between 2013 and 2016.

The NSW Government's Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme leads the world in using economic instruments for the effective protection of waterways. The scheme has been responsible for restoring the waters of the Hunter to an unprecedented level of freshness. Water salinity is more stable and lower and the river is now as fresh as many bottled mineral waters.

The scheme is a huge win for the entire Hunter River community. Agriculture benefits from fresh irrigation waters while miners and electricity generators can make controlled discharges of excess waters.

The scheme protects the region's most precious natural resource, provides for diverse interests to work together, and allows continued economic development, ensuring a secure future for the region.

This is achieved by:

  • extensive and continuous real-time monitoring of environmental conditions and discharges (see scheme successes)
  • scheduling saline industrial discharges at times of high river flows and low background salinity levels so that salinity targets are not exceeded because of the discharges (see how the scheme works)
  • sharing the total allowable discharge according to the tradeable salinity credits held by dischargers (see allocating credits)
  • issuing initial credits with different life spans (200 credits expire every two years) and then using a public auction to fairly distribute 200 new credits every two years, starting in 2004 (see scheme credit auctions).

More about the scheme: Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme: Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme Working together to protect river quality and sustain economic development (PDF 488KB)

Find out how the scheme performed.

Page last updated: 19 December 2016