About the Trust

The Trust was originally established by the Nature Conservation Council of NSW in 2007, with initial funding from the former NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water. In June 2014, the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group Ltd. acquired the Environmental Water Trust and in 2015, The Nature Conservancy Ltd partnered with the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group Ltd. to further develop the Trust.

The Trust is a national independent non-government charitable organisation that facilitates investment in the long-term environmental health of Australia’s rivers and wetlands. The Environmental Water Trust will seek to provide a crucial non-government vehicle for river and wetland conservation, just as the land trusts have done for the terrestrial estate.

Why is this so important?
“The crisis in water demands all the effort we can muster for our rivers and wetlands. River red gums are dying because they no longer get flooded as often as they used to and many other plants dependent on rivers are similarly affected. Our native fish populations are about 10% of natural levels, largely because of our impacts on rivers. Waterbird numbers are declining on many wetlands for the same reason and many large colonies of waterbirds do not breed as often as they used to because there is less flooding.

There is a crucial role for a strong national philanthropic water trust to leverage the widespread public concern and play a part, including owning environmental flows.”

Richard Kingsford, Professor of Environmental Science


The objectives of the Trust are solely to support environmental purposes and in particular:

(a)          to protect and enhance the natural water resources of Australia which includes protecting, enhancing and restoring water sources, their associated ecosystems, ecological processes and biological diversity throughout Australia;
(b)          to provide information or education, or to carry on research, about the natural water resources of Australia;
(c)          to apply for, acquire, manage, hold or dispose of Water Access Licences (WAL) as the Trustee determines for these purposes;
(d)          to establish and maintain a public fund to be called the Environmental Water Fund which will operate as set out in the Trust Deed for the specific purpose of supporting the environmental purposes of the Trust;
(e)          to support or establish any charitable institution or charitable object anywhere in Australia which the Trustee in its absolute discretion considers to be consistent with these purposes;
(f)           to invite members of the public to make gifts of money, Water Access Licences or other rights and property to the Environmental Water Fund for these purposes; and
(g)          to do anything else incidental or conducive to those matters.

The Trust has established a Scientific and Cultural Advisory Committee. The Chair is Professor Richard Kingsford. Professor Kingsford is the Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of NSW. He has focused his research over about the last 20 years on the waterbirds, wetlands and rivers of arid Australia, which cover about 70% of the continent. He has identified the significant impacts of water resource development on the rivers and wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin and contributed to policy development and environmental flow management.


The role of the Advisory Committee is:

  • Advise on the criteria by which the Trust makes decisions about which water to purchase.
  • Advise on the decision making rules for the management of any water purchased by the Trust.
  • Advise on key policy decisions which will support the effective operation of the Trust and the effective management of environmental water.
  • Advise on any research that is necessary to underpin effective use of environmental water held and managed by the Trust.