Protecting the environment

Children running into the surf

Protecting Sydney’s beautiful beaches is one of our major achievements. 

Managing water and protecting the environment is very important to us.

We play a huge role in contributing to healthy waterways. We collect the wastewater from homes and businesses and clean it so it’s safe to be re-used or released back into the environment. Learn more about wastewater treatment.

We consider the environment when planning, designing and managing sustainable water solutions in a growing city.

Learn more about how we manage environmental protection.

Our network of pipes that carry wastewater, and our wastewater treatment and water recycling plants, must meet strict environmental protection licence conditions. The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) sets these licence conditions.

Environmental protection licences tell us:

  • what quality our treated wastewater needs to be before it's released into the environment
  • how and when we monitor water quality and report our results.

The licences are based on the unique environment where we release the treated water such as, the ocean, rivers or creeks.

People standing near the edge of the water at the beach

We all play a role in making sure our beaches stay clean and safe.

Our beaches are part of what makes Sydney such an iconic city. They have significant environmental, social and economic value to our community and help make  liveable cities.

We protect the health of beaches and oceans by making sure wastewater is cleaned to the right standard before it's released. This means beaches and swimming areas stay clean and safe for recreation.

Some of our coastal plants use deep ocean outfalls. The outfalls carry the wastewater about two to four kilometres offshore, where the water is 60 to 80 metres deep.

Strong ocean currents dilute the treated wastewater while UV radiation from sunlight and the salty sea water further disinfect it.

Other coastal plants treat the water to even higher standards so we can release it closer to shore. The treated water can also be re-used for things like watering parks and gardens.

To ensure marine life is safe, we monitor to see if there are any impacts on marine ecosystem health. Monitoring over 10 years shows no measurable impact. Learn more about our sewage treatment system impact monitoring.

We've spent more than $3 billion in the past 25 years to improve beach and harbour water quality.

Beachwatch publishes a report on the State of the Beaches in October each year and grades the 38 ocean beaches along the greater Sydney coastline.
People kayaking on a river

Kayaking is a popular way to spend time on our beautiful rivers.

Many people in our city live close to creeks and rivers and use them for swimming, boating and agriculture.

Some of our wastewater treatment and water recycling plants release treated wastewater into creeks and rivers around Sydney. These important ecosystems are very sensitive to changes in water quality.

We use special treatment processes to remove nutrients and fine particles from the wastewater so everyone can continue to enjoy our rivers.

We monitor sites downstream of wastewater release points to see if there are any impacts on river health. The monitoring program is consistent with the  Australian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality. We regularly report these results.

Find more information in our EPA pollution monitoring data reports.

Did you know that 373 million plastic water bottles end up as waste each year? Sadly, many of them end up in our beautiful oceans and rivers.

Thankfully, there's things you can do to help keep them out.

Make the sustainable choice

Have you ever thought about the life cycle of a plastic bottle? There are many steps involved in making a bottle of water and many natural resources are used.

Take a look at the diagram below and make a note of how many times a bottle is transported throughout the process. Remember every time a bottle is transported it uses petrol and releases a lot of carbon dioxide into the air, contributing to air pollution.

One of the simplest things you can do to help is to only use bottled water when you really need to. Try using a refillable water bottle instead.

Learn more about Tap water versus bottled water.

lifecycle plastic bottle cropped

Life cycle of a plastic bottle.

Beat the bottle

Help Greater Sydney Beat the Bottle and join a clean up group supported by Sydney Water. By joining a clean up event near you, you can help keep our environment clean and plastic waste free.

Learn more about other ways to keep stormwater clean.

There are other ways that we’re helping to protect the environment. Learn more about how we’re improving our operations to be a more sustainable business.

  • Water recycling - treating wastewater to turning it into a valuable source of water that can be used for many different things.
  • Solids recycling – treating solid waste from wastewater to turn it into valuable products like fertiliser
  • Innovation & renewable energy – reducing our environmental footprint and use alternate and renewable energy sources

There are simple ways you can also help us protect the environment.

There are ways you can take action too.

  • Try conducting a school Water audit to learn about water efficiency in school.
  • How can we protect the environment from inside our homes? Try our Wastewater audit.