Sydney Water


When Sydney Water was founded around 130 years ago, it was done with a clearly expressed vision and intention.  Australia’s largest and fastest growing city needed a secure and safe world class water system. They developed engineering feats, reliable and robust infrastructure assets that have been a central part of the growth of Sydney. This is how Sydney Water became the ‘lifestream’ of Sydney, aiming to move from simply managing assets to placing customers at the heart of the business.


  • Sydney, Australia

Population served

  • ~ 5 million

Service provided

  • Drinking water, wastewater, stormwater

Source of water

  • Surface Water: Reservoirs [x%], Desalination [x%] Groundwater [x%, if any]

Key elements of Sydney Water's Story

Actions aligned to the IWA Principles for Water-Wise Cities

Relationship to regulators and/or tariff system

Sydney Water is a state owned corporation. Our shareholder is the New South Wales state government.

Tariffs and budgets are set in a four year cycle by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).

Sydney Water’s tariff charges to customers normally involve a service fee for water and wastewater plus a consumption fee for water which is currently at $AU1.97 per 1000 litres.  This charge represents a price fall since the last cycle which now means that Sydney Water customers with typical water consumption will save around $100 on their water bills each year for the duration of this four year cycle.

Example of projects or tool that supports your journey to water-wise cities

Population growth, new technology, increasing customer expectations and increased competition will be significant drivers of change in Sydney Water’s business.

As Sydney grows – we need to grow too. With population growth we can expect to serve about an additional 80,000 people each year. To fully realise our goal to be the Lifestream of Sydney for generations to come we need to provide services above and beyond the basics.

We can look towards a future where our customers get much more from us than water and wastewater services. A future where customers get real-time data about their water use, businesses have access to more flexible pricing and Sydney Water plays a much more active role in communities.

Our customers of the future will know that Sydney Water is part of their community and proud to be working with them to build a sustainable lifestyle.

Reducing the amount of energy used

Sydney Water is already investing in research into renewable energies to find ways to diversify our business and respond to changes in our environment.

Our wastewater treatment plants produce around 20% of Sydney Water’s energy needs through bio-digestion and co-generation. Our Bondi Wastewater Treatment Plant is now producing more energy than it consumes and is returning 8GWh of power to the general electricity grid.

Biosolids are removed from the wastewater treatment process and 170,000 tonnes of biosolids are now being provided to farmers outside Sydney each year as a fertiliser and soil conditioner to improve yields.

Farmers pay a fee to receive biosolids at their properties and feedback from farmers has confirmed increases in yields of animal food crops, which is the primary use of the biosolids fertiliser.

We are investigating additional opportunities to reduce general waste and to increase energy production at our treatment plants by piloting research on the addition of food waste to the sewage stream to increase biogas production and green power in the treatment process.

Sydney Water is looking to implement these programs on a larger scale at each of our plants so that wastewater treatment plants can be the bio-generators of the future, where waste is being turned into a valuable resource.

Water-wise communities

Sydney Water has undertaken over the past few decades a water-wise program to educate our customers, both residential and business, on how they can reduce their water consumption.

This program has involved behavioural changes, and the introduction of water efficient tapware and protocols.

Sydney Water engaged in a ‘Water-wise’ program over a decade ago where customers were encouraged and subsidised to install dual flush toilets, water efficient taps and shower heads. Water-wise rules were also introduced encouraging people not to wash motor vehicles on hard services, not to use garden hoses to hose down hard surfaces. Restrictions were also placed on the timing of garden watering to water first thing in the morning and in the late afternoon or evening.

Subsidies were also provided for the installation of rainwater tanks in residential properties.

Sydney Water also conducted water use audits with business customers to enable water and cost efficiencies for our business customers.

The behaviours introduced a decade or more ago have been maintained, despite Sydney no longer being in drought conditions.

Current total water consumption in Sydney is the same as it was over a decade ago but Sydney’s population has increased by around one million people during this period. Sydney’s current per person daily water consumption is around 300 litres per day which is the same level as it was in the1940’s.

Water Sensitive Urban Design

Sydney Water supports integrated water management actions that are sensitive to the natural water cycle, to allow more resilient, sustainable and liveable city outcomes.

Sydney Water supports the ongoing rehabilitation of Sydney creeks and streams through total catchment management of stormwater and wastewater flows in new precinct areas.

Sydney Water is also influencing development controls to implement WSUD with an emphasis on stormwater retention within the new development areas and progress opportunities to improve existing urban cooling


Sydney Water has introduced a number of projects aiming to limit changes to the natural hydrology:

  • Sydney Water’s ‘low impact stormwater’ charge for residential properties that significantly reduce urban stormwater runoff from hard surfaces through rainwater tank reuse and evapotranspiration / infiltration in raingardens.
  • The Metro North West Corridor Strategic Planning Strategy which sets objectives to rehabilitate creeks and streams, install and operate a stormwater harvesting scheme and apply stormwater retention development controls to improve urban cooling.
  • Elizabeth Macarthur Creek stormwater harvesting pilot project is aiming to protect the geomorphology and ecological values of the waterway through storage pipes along the waterway corridor and reuse of the excess urban stormwater.

Sydney Water has also implemented projects which close the loop on water and nutrient cycles:

  • Recycled water (treated wastewater) being reticulated for non-potable reuse within the Rouse Hill development area.
  • Treated wastewater being used for agricultural reuse at Picton, (in Sydney’s South West) and Gerringong, (South of Sydney) Water Recycling Plants. Approximately half of the water is reused on an annual basis to water fodder crops for cattle.

The benefits of these projects include:

  • Reduced potable water demand, reduced effluent discharge, and reduced impacts on receiving waterways.
  • Further benefits through productive agriculture, and microclimate cooling through water in the landscape and evapotranspiration processes.

We also see opportunities when the city’s water, wastewater and stormwater are managed in an integrated way with land use planning from beginning to end. That’s all throughout concept, design, construction and operation. We’re collaborating with state and local government, catchment managers and our community. Our objective is to integrate water management into the design of our neighbourhoods and broaden outcomes that are valued by our communities.

Stormwater management in particular involves multiple stakeholders.  Sydney Water’s collaborative approach has included secondments to other agencies involved in City Shaping, providing submissions and close collaboration on relevant aspects as opportunities arise.  We work closely with Local Councils on flood management and on waterway health improvement in target catchments with Water Sensitive Urban Design projects aiming to deliver multiple benefits for the community – water quality improvement, microclimate cooling, amenity, water harvesting for reuse, habitat, and other social/cultural aspects.

Sydney Water also forms developer partnerships to deliver the infrastructure required to support the city’s growth with key projects identified to trial innovative approaches and to collaborate effectively with key stakeholders. Two projects have been undertaken recently at Sydney Science Park and the Greater Parramatta and Olympic Peninsula precinct.

Sydney Water supported the establishment of the Splash Network capacity building program for Water Sensitive Urban Design and resilience to climate change.  This community of practice aims to share knowledge and provide information to Councils across New South Wales, working with similar capacity building programs across Australia.