Environmental protection

Environmental protection is important to us

We play a huge role in contributing to healthy waterways. We consider the environment when planning, designing and managing sustainable water solutions in our liveable city. But we don't do it alone. Many organisations in Greater Sydney work together on urban water management. You can help us, too.

Simple ways for you to help us protect the environment
Water use and conservation: see how you can save water at home and at school. Wastewater treatment: find out about problem substances that go down the drain and how you can help. Schools can try doing a wastewater audit or stormwater audit, or discover the brand without a bottle.

Protecting our beaches

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 and released in the right location. This means beaches and swimming areas stay clean and safe for recreation.

We monitor to see if there are any impacts on marine ecosystem health. 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.

You can do your part, too. Help us keep plastic waste out of our oceans by only using bottled water when you really need to. Try using a refillable water bottle instead. Learn more about Tap water versus bottled water (133KB).

Did you know?
Beachwatch publishes State of the beaches reports in October each year and grades the 38 ocean beaches along the Greater Sydney coastline. You can check Sydney beach forecasts to find somewhere safe to swim.

Protecting our rivers

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

Some of our water resource recovery facilities release treated wastewater into creeks and rivers around Sydney. These important ecosystems are very sensitive to changes in water quality and flow.

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 thAustralian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality. We regularly report these results.

Find out more from our EPA pollution monitoring data reports and sewage treatment system impact monitoringManaging stormwater is also an important part of caring for our waterways.

Did you know?

373 million plastic water bottles end up as waste each year. Learn more about Tap water versus bottled water (133KB).

Our environmental performance

We continually monitor our environmental performance. You can learn more about our environmental performance indicators in our Operating Licence (2.7MB)Our network of pipes that carry wastewater, and our water resource recovery facilities must meet strict environment protection licence conditions. The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) sets these licence conditions.

Environment protection licences tell us:

  • what quality our treated wastewater needs to be before it's released into the environment
  • what tests we need to do
  • 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.

We publish summaries in our:

Each year, we report on our environmental performance through our Annual environmental performance report (1012KB), which includes our statement of implementation of our Special Objectives and our environmental performance indicators report.

Our sustainability performance

There are other ways we help to protect the environment. We’re improving our operations to be a more sustainable business.

We’re striving to improve how we do things until our operations cause no harm to the environment while supporting thriving, sustainable and liveable cities.

Some of the things we’re working on are:

  • supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to achieve Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation
  • water recycling – treating wastewater by 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
  • improving our energy management to lower our energy use and include more renewable energy
  • achieving net zero carbon emissions in our operations by 2030 and supply chain by 2040.

Environmental policy, planning and management

Policy and planning

Our strategy 2020–2030 provides an overview for delivering our vision: Creating a better life with world-class water services. It includes our direction for creating thriving, liveable and sustainable cities. It also outlines how we will continue to deliver world-class products and services to Greater Sydney, and be champions for the environment, public health and resilience.

Right now, to help us implement our vision, we’re developing strategic blueprints focusing on healthy waterways and environment and circular economy and resource recovery. We’re also refining the ways we track our performance.

You can learn more about our commitment to the environment from Our strategy 2020–2030 and our Environmental policy.

Management system

Our Environmental Management System (EMS) helps us manage, review, correct and improve our activities and operations to minimise our impacts on the environment. It's certified to the international standard ISO 14001:2015. It's part of our integrated management system, which includes Quality, Safety and Asset Management components.

Maintaining our EMS certification helps:

  • demonstrate due diligence in environmental management
  • ensure top management commitment
  • maintain predictable and consistent processes
  • reduce and manage resources such as waste materials and energy
  • protect and manage water and land resources. 

Environmental assessment

We use environmental assessments to plan, operate and maintain our assets. We invite community and stakeholder input, and try to have a low impact on the environment.

To learn more about our projects and provide feedback, visit Sydney Water Talk.