Online water quality assessment tool wins innovation award

Tuesday, 15 November, 2011

At the NSW Excellence in Surveying & Spatial Information Awards event, the Spatial Information Award has been presented to the Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA) for its online NorBE assessment tool.

SCA Chief Executive Michael Bullen said the award recognises innovative techniques in surveying, spatial information, mapping, cartography, design, planning and software development.

“Under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Sydney Drinking Water Catchment) 2011 (SEPP) all developments in the drinking water catchments must have a neutral or beneficial effect (NorBE) on water quality,” Bullen said.

“To meet this obligation, the 15 catchment councils must assess development applications to ensure they don’t have a negative impact on water quality.

“The NorBE tool was created to help catchment councils meet those requirements by providing a dedicated online application to help self-assess each application.”

Bullen said the tool was user friendly and intuitive, and asked a series of questions to determine if the development could have a detrimental effect on water quality.

“A satellite image of the lot that is entered into the program is displayed and shows the location of nearby waterways as well as other sensitive sites that could be impacted by the development,” Bullen said.

“The tool features a risk assessment, impact modelling and asks about the type of development being proposed and what kind of on-site wastewater disposal system the property has to determine if water quality will be affected or not.

“After all the questions are answered, the tool tells the user whether NorBE is satisfied or not or if SCA concurrence is required.”

Bullen said the tool was several years in the making and the 15 catchment councils provided input into its development.

“Development of this tool began in December 2009, which built on an earlier version, and it was gradually rolled out from November last year,” Bullen said.

“As part of the new SEPP it became compulsory to use the tool from 1 March this year.

“To help catchment councils use the new tool, we have provided in-house training, phone support, a user guide and guidelines.

“We have trained about 120 staff and most councils have adapted well to the new tool and we’re providing on-going support to use the tool.

“The advantage for catchment councils is that they don’t have to refer as many development applications to the SCA any more, as they can assess them themselves,” he added.

The tool is available to all 15 catchment councils:

  • Blue Mountains City Council
  • Campbelltown City Council
  • Cooma Monaro Council
  • Eurobodalla Shire Council
  • Goulburn Mulwaree Council
  • Kiama Municipal Council
  • Lithgow City Council
  • Oberon Council
  • Palerang Council
  • Shoalhaven City Council
  • Sutherland Shire Council
  • Upper Lachlan Council
  • Wingecarribee Shire Council
  • Wollondilly Shire Council
  • Wollongong City Council.


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