The majority of drinking water for the Sydney region comes from the Catchment shown below. You can find out the specific location your drinking water comes from here. The catchment extends from near the Blue Mountains in the north to south-west of Bateman’s Bay in the south.  It encompasses Goulburn in the west and stretches east including much of the escarpment bordering Wollongong.  WaterNSW which operates the dams in the Greater Sydney catchment, identifies eleven significant water-holding dams and/or reservoirs, most of which are located in the north of the catchment close to Sydney.  

Individuals can be fined up to $44,000 for entering special areas of the catchment. These measures are put in place to protect the area from degradation. These same areas which are off-limits to people, are not off-limits to mining companies.  More than half the Metropolitan and Woronora Special Areas (protected inner catchments) are covered by coal mining leases and more than 25% have already been mined.  Water NSW has estimated that by 2030 90% of the Special Areas will have been undermined.

The Illawarra region has a long history of underground coal mining. Colonisation of the region in the by white settlers and dispossession of Traditional Custodians from their lands occured in the 1810s. Coal mining soon developed in the region from the 1840s. 

Mining has contributed to the economic and cultural development of the region. However, in recent times there has been observations of damage to the water catchment area as a result of underground coal mining. 

The map below shows where mining and exploration leases exist in the special areas of the catchment around the Illawarra. Note that people can be fined $44,000 for simply bushwalking in these areas. Also note the close proximity to important dams and reservoirs. 

Source: Literature Review of Underground Mining Beneath Catchments and Water Bodies, 2016, p 20,












Protect Our Water Alliance proposes that the same standards that exist for the general community should be applied to mining companies. Furthermore, we believe it is unacceptable for any extractive industries to occur in the water catchment area. 

POWA recognises that the traditional owners of the regions spanning Sydney's water catchment have never ceded sovereignty of their lands and waters.

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Protect Our Water Alliance 2020

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