Protecting the environment

Boys racing on the beach

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.

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, eg the ocean, rivers or creeks.

People wade in shallow 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.

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 costal 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 treatment system impact monitoring.

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

The Beachwatch State of the Beaches Report 2015-16 graded 36 of the 38 ocean beaches along the greater Sydney coastline as ‘very good’ or ‘good’.
Kayak on 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  National Water Quality Management Strategy (ANZECC 2000). We regularly report these results.

Find more information in our EPA pollution monitoring data reports.