Hawkesbury Nepean Nutrient Management Program

RPS has developed a comprehensive social analysis and community action strategy to support Sydney Water’s Hawkesbury-Nepean Nutrient Management Program.


With the population of Western Sydney predicted to increase by one million people over the next several decades, changing land uses will result in increased wastewater discharges and greater levels of nutrients entering local waterways. To help prevent negative health impacts to the Hawkesbury-Nepean River, Sydney Water engaged RPS to assist with community and stakeholder engagement that would inform decision-making about nutrient management in the catchment area.

We developed and delivered a social research and community engagement initiative over three stages: a social analysis of the catchment, a community and stakeholder engagement strategy and community and stakeholder engagement research. Completing an in-depth qualitative and quantitative review of the catchment across a range of metrics (demographics, social values and community characteristics) our team used these insights to prepare a detailed community engagement strategy and plan for the Nutrient Management Program.

Hawkesbury River, NSW Australia


Led by our social research specialists, the initial catchment analysis interrogated data from nine Local Government Areas (LGAs) to formulate a clear picture of the catchment’s social makeup, values, views and priorities. The report included a review of literature exploring social values, quantitative analysis of demographic data and a detailed customer segmentation analysis.

Armed with this information, we used further research and engagement activities to better understand local views on the economic, social, environmental and cultural value of the river system, and how these views can inform positive nutrient management. We also explored community expectations of river health and nutrient management outcomes to help Sydney Water design activities that can be completed with as little cost to the community as possible.

Intercept surveys were conducted at key points along the river to capture user perceptions and concerns, while interactive workshops were conducted with representatives from local authorities and Aboriginal Land Councils to understand river management practices. Our team also established and facilitated five Community Reference Groups, managed online engagement platforms and designed computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI) surveys to capture the views of residents.

Our findings have not only improved Sydney Water’s understanding of community values and expectations for nutrient management in the Hawkesbury Nepean, but provided a strong foundation upon which it can partner with the community on waterway improvement projects and initiatives into the future.

Project statistics

Local Government Areas (LGAs) analysed
Community Reference Groups
Intercept surveys completed at nine locations across the study area
Resident phone surveys

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