Liveable cities

Liveability is all those things that make a city enjoyable to live in. This includes:

  • the built and natural environments
  • economic success
  • social stability and equity
  • educational opportunity
  • cultural, entertainment and recreation possibilities.
Sydney aerial

Water plays a vital role in creating a liveable city.

Many of the attributes of a liveable city are made possible by the way water is managed in our cities.

Access to clean drinking water and reliable sanitation is vital to life. The physical and mental health of a city’s residents is also influenced by its recreational spaces such as parks and playing fields, creeks and waterways. Water plays a key role in supporting these spaces.

Well planned water, wastewater and stormwater services support growth. Our current and future business centres depend on our ability to deliver water for production, processing, cooling and habitation.

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Read how we help enhance the liveability of Sydney.

We play a key role in ensuring Sydney continues to be one of the most liveable cities in the world.

Over the next 20 years, Greater Sydney will grow by about 1.3 million people. This will require over half a million new homes and increased commercial areas.

We'll need to supply an extra 47 billion litres of drinking water and treat an additional 268 million litres of wastewater every day.

The mix of people in Sydney will also be different.

More than 15% of the population will be over 65 and more than one million people (about 18%) will be under the age of 15.

These changes will bring new challenges in the way we live in, and interact with, our cities.

Learn more about our role in Enhancing the liveability of our cities.

Many organisations in greater Sydney work together to manage water so we:

  • have enough water for a growing population
  • protect public health
  • protect the environment.

Planning for the future

Greater Sydney Commission

The NSW Government has established the independent Greater Sydney Commission. It will be responsible for metropolitan planning in a partnership between state and local government.

The Commission will play a major role in coordinating water infrastructure and urban planning to improve the city's liveability in the future.

Metropolitan Water Directorate

The NSW Government's Metropolitan Water Directorate leads a whole of government approach to developing and monitoring the Metropolitan Water Plan.

The plan outlines the mix of measures needed to ensure Sydney, the Illawarra and Blue Mountains have enough water now and for the future.

Local councils

Local councils are responsible for about 95% of stormwater drains and canals in the Sydney region. Most stormwater harvesting schemes are locally operated.

Treated stormwater can, in some areas, be a cost-effective local water supply that reduces demand for drinking water and helps stop pollutants entering our waterways.

In Greater Sydney, treated stormwater is used:

  • to irrigate public parks, golf courses and sporting ovals
  • in cooling towers
  • to flush toilets.

Protecting public health

NSW Health

NSW Health, through its Environmental Health Branch, is responsible for health issues related to the interaction between the environment and the health of people.

Water related environmental health issues include:

  • providing safe drinking water supplies
  • recreational use of water
  • sewage management
  • health aspects of public swimming pools.


WaterNSW manages and protects the drinking water catchments of the Greater Sydney region and supplies high quality raw water.

Private water suppliers and managers

Private companies also supply and manage water in different parts of Sydney.

Sydney Desalination Plant, for example, provides high quality desalinated water when our dam levels fall below 70%.

Protecting the environment

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage helps protect our waterways (rivers, beaches, wetlands, groundwater systems, estuaries and marine environments) and the plants and animals that live in them.

This organisation is responsible for:

  • advising catchment managers about water quality
  • providing advice for stormwater managers
  • monitoring and reporting on the health of waterways
  • conserving public wetlands
  • buying water to return flows to wetlands and rivers
  • managing floodplains.

Environmental Protection Authority

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is an independent authority. Its primary role is to protect the environment.

The authority is responsible for working with the community, business, industry and government to maintain a balance between:
  • protecting the environment
  • managing competing demands on the environment
  • supporting sustainable growth.


WaterNSW works together with local councils, landholders, government agencies and industry to protect our drinking water catchment.

Catchment management authorities

Catchment management authorities work with the Commonwealth and NSW Government to solve land, water and native plant problems.

They give advice on managing natural resources and work with local councils, government departments and land owners to improve catchments.