Sydney Water Annual Report 2009
Performance review: Helping develop a water efficient city
In June 2009, with dam storage levels around 60% for over a year, Water Wise Rules were introduced to replace drought restrictions.

In this section:

download View our sustainability performance indicators for this goal

Dams + Recycling + Desalination + Water efficiency = Water 4 life

In May 2009, the NSW Government launched a campaign to improve the community’s understanding of the four main parts of the Metropolitan Water Plan: dams, recycling, desalination and water efficiency.

The network of 11 major dams in Sydney, the Illawarra and the Blue Mountains provides one of the largest per capita storages in the world. However, with highly variable rainfall in the main Warragamba catchment and a growing population, the community can no longer rely only on dam water storages. A more diverse water supply is needed.

By 2015, recycling will provide 12% of greater Sydney’s water needs. In addition, Sydney’s desalination plant can provide up to 15% of the water supply. The plant will supply water from this summer.

It is expected that a variety of water efficiency initiatives, together with the community continuing to be water wise, will save about 24% of Sydney’s water needs by 2015.

In June 2009, with dam storage levels around 60% for over a year, the NSW Government introduced Water Wise Rules to replace drought restrictions. The rules are simple, common sense and everyday actions to save water. The Water Wise Rules are:

  • Hand held hoses, sprinklers and watering systems may be used any day, but only before 10 am and after 4 pm – to avoid the heat of the day.
  • All hoses must have a trigger nozzle.
  • No hosing of hard surfaces such as paths and driveways. Washing vehicles is allowed.
  • Fire hoses may be used for fire fighting activities only.

Planning for future growth

Sydney Water is developing strategic plans for all major growth areas and will complete most plans by the end of 2009–10. The plans will ensure that Sydney’s water, wastewater and recycled water systems can meet customer demands and deliver services when needed.

To comply with the NSW planning regulations, new houses need to reduce drinking water use by up to 40% of current average household levels.

For the new residential developments in the Hoxton Park area, wastewater recycling was the best option to reduce water use, as low rainfall in the area would make rainwater tanks less effective. In 2008–09, Sydney Water laid 90% of the main pipeline to the area and will start work on a treatment plant, reservoirs and pumping stations in late 2009–10.

In May 2009, Sydney Water’s Board approved the servicing strategy for the West Dapto area. The development will use rainwater tanks to supply water for non-drinking purposes as it is in a high-rainfall coastal area. Work will begin in 2013.

For more information please see our Water conservation and recycling implementation report (WCRIR)

Desalination can supply up to 15% of Sydney’s water supply

Sydney’s desalination project is progressing, on time and budget. From this summer, water from the plant will become part of the water supply. While it can provide up to 15% of Sydney’s water supply, Sydney Water has designed the plant so it can be quickly upgraded to twice its size, if needed, in the event of a prolonged drought.

A 67-turbine wind farm at Bungendore in NSW will generate enough renewable energy to offset the plant’s energy use. Renewable Power Ventures, a subsidiary of Infigen Energy, has built and will operate the wind farm.

The wind farm, with a capacity of 140 megawatts, was designed to produce more than enough energy to operate the plant, even on days when there is less wind. It will increase the supply of wind energy in NSW by over 700%.

At the end of 2008–09, the desalination plant and pipeline were about 80% complete. Blue Water, a joint venture between Veolia and John Holland, is completing work on the desalination plant at Kurnell.

The joint venture has also built the tunnels that connect the intake and outlet structures 300 metres offshore in the Tasman Sea. The plant will use reverse osmosis technology to extract fresh water from seawater.

By June 2009, the Water Delivery Alliance had laid most of the 18 km pipeline from Kurnell, across Botany Bay, that will connect to Sydney’s water supply in Erskineville.

The Water Delivery Alliance includes Bovis Lend Lease, McConnell Dowell, Kellogg Brown & Root, Worley Parsons, Environment Resources Management and Sydney Water.

Sydney Water has worked closely with local communities to reduce impacts from construction, including using noise abatement barriers around pipeline construction, changing the timing of construction and amending construction methods.

Recycling will save 12% of Sydney’s water needs

Recycling has increased to over 27 billion litres of water in 2008–09. By 2015, recycled water will provide up to 70 billion litres a year, 12% of the water needs.

Sydney Water’s major recycled water work during 2008–09 included:

  • Finished expansion of the Rouse Hill Recycled Water Plant in December 2008. Up to 4.7 billion litres of wastewater can now be recycled each year in about 18,000 homes and businesses. Rouse Hill is the largest residential recycled water scheme in Australia. It will serve 36,000 homes when completed.
  • Completed about 16 km of pipeline for a new residential recycled water scheme for the Hoxton Park area. Construction is due to start on a recycled water plant at Glenfield in 2010. This major recycled water scheme is expected to be running in 2013. It will eventually serve 13,000 new homes and 185 hectares of new industrial development.
  • Commissioned Stage 2 of the Wollongong Recycled Water Scheme in April 2009. Highly treated and disinfected recycled water is being supplied to Port Kembla Coal Terminal and Wollongong Golf Club. Stage 2 replaces about 50 million litres of drinking water a year. Nearby Wollongong Council parks will start to use recycled water in late 2009.
  • Continued building Sydney’s largest recycled water plant at St Marys. When finished around mid 2010, the plant will supply up to 18 billion litres a year of highly treated recycled water to the Hawkesbury-Nepean River. The recycled water will partially replace water that is currently released from Warragamba Dam, saving dam water while maintaining river flows.

In addition, Kogarah Council is expected to start using a small treatment plant to tap into Sydney Water’s sewer in late 2009. The plant will produce recycled water to irrigate Beverley Park Golf Course.

Sydney Water’s sewage treatment plants are among the largest users of recycled water. About 96% of the plants’ water needs are now met with recycled water, saving over 15 billion litres of drinking water a year.

In May 2009, Sydney Water moved its head office to Parramatta. The new building has a treatment plant that provides about 75% of its water needs. It also reduces the flow of wastewater to the sewerage system by up to 90%. The plant supplies recycled water for cooling towers, watering a rooftop garden and toilet flushing.

RW forecast


First private suppliers of water and wastewater services

Work on the Rosehill/Camellia Recycled Water Project began in July 2009. Veolia Water Australia and Aquanet Sydney received the first licences that allow private companies to supply water services in New South Wales in April 2009.

The project includes a recycled water plant at Fairfield in Sydney’s west, to be built and operated by Veolia. Also included is a network of recycled water pipes, to be built and operated by Aquanet. Recycled water will be sold to Sydney Water, which will on-sell it to major industrial customers.

Recycled water should be available for industrial use from early 2011. The project will initially supply up to 4.3 billion litres of recycled water a year to industrial customers and a racecourse. Planning is underway to expand the scheme to other customers.

The licences were granted under the Water Industry Competition Act (WICA), which encourages competition to help secure Sydney’s water supply.

Applications for WICA licences are made to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal. The Minister for Water is responsible for granting licences. Licence-holders are subject to a range of conditions to protect the environment, public health and safety and report regularly on their performance.

Veolia staff member testing a water sample at Liverpool wastewater recycling pilot plant

Veolia staff member testing a water sample at Liverpool wastewater recycling pilot plant

Water efficiency programs will save 24% of Sydney’s water needs

Sydney Water is helping the community and businesses to use water wisely, saving up to 145 billion litres a year by 2015 or 24% of Sydney’s water needs. Water efficiency programs include the WaterFix residential program and the Every Drop Counts (EDC) Business and Schools programs.

During 2008–09, Sydney Water’s residential programs saved 2.09 billion litres of water by:

  • replacing almost 10,000 single-flush toilets
  • paying over 40,000 washing machine rebates
  • fitting over 8,000 households with water efficient devices
  • completing over 8,000 garden assessments as part of its Love Your Garden service
  • paying almost 5,000 rainwater tank rebates to households.

Through the EDC Business Program, a total of 3.36 billion litres of water was saved in 2008–09 by:

  • signing up its 413th large water using business customer
  • replacing over 2,000 pre-rinse spray valves, under its Smart Rinse Program.

During the year, the EDC Business Program also:

  • launched the BizFix Program, aiming to retrofit amenities in over 1,000 businesses by 2012 and save 77 million litres of water a year
  • introduced the Top 100 Monitoring Program to assist the largest 150 water using businesses better manage their water and address leaks; aiming to save 61 million litres of water a year by 2010–11
  • awarded 41 grants of between $2,000 and $20,000 for small and medium businesses to install water efficiency devices, aiming to save 200 million litres of water a year by June 2010
  • launched the EDC Online web application, the first of its kind for a water utility, to enable businesses to analyse, track and report on their water use
  • was a finalist in the Government – Water Authorities category of the 2008 Savewater Awards and a runner-up in the 2009 AWA Water Environment Merit Award for EDC Online.

In 2008-09, Coca-Cola Amatil became the first manufacturing company in the EDC Business Program to achieve a five-star rating under the One-2-Five Water management scheme. Their new high bay warehouse at Northmead includes a combined stormwater and rainwater system, which will harvest two million litres of water a year.

EDC business program

From 1 July 2009, Sydney Water will partner with 12 councils in a pilot to develop a water efficiency program for small to medium water using businesses. Ten water project officers will work with about 500 local businesses for two years to help them reduce their water use.

The EDC in Schools Program saved 63 million litres of water in 2008–09 by:

  • installing online monitoring systems in 40 schools
  • providing professional development opportunities to teachers at 39 schools
  • giving 19 schools a rainwater tank rebate.


Every Drop Counts in Schools

Sydney Water’s EDC in Schools is a water efficiency program helping schools to save water and money. By June 2009, 81 schools had installed a monitoring system. The 41 schools that joined in 2008 achieved savings of about 220 million litres during the year.

A ‘smart meter’ is installed to give real-time information on water use. This tracks when and how much water schools use and helps find hidden leaks. Granville South High School joined EDC because they had water bills over $20,000 and wanted to reduce water waste and costs. The school’s water use fell from an average of 40,000 litres a day to about 7,000 litres a day after a broken pipe was found.

Sydney Water also supports water education by supplying lesson plans, water use graphs, water audit advice and teacher development. Students are encouraged to report leaking taps, bubblers and cisterns around the school grounds.

A student interest group was formed at Granville South to monitor water use. ‘We were able to effectively integrate the global issues in the geography curriculum with some of the local steps that were being taken at the school,’ Andrew Skehan, Head Teacher of Geography said.

Feedback from teachers is that EDC in Schools is a great way to draw attention to the importance of being water wise and that the message goes beyond the school, as students take the information home.

Throughout 2008–09, Sydney Water gave 133 schools and 21 other educational organisations education resources and support. Teachers at 39 schools also received professional development.

Students at Jasper Road Public School conducting a water audit

Students at Jasper Road Public School conducting a water audit


Getting smart with metering

Sydney Water is trialling smart meters to help households be more water efficient. The trial began in October 2008 with 600 Westleigh customers. Running until June 2010, the aim is to help customers easily identify leaks and monitor their water use.

Sydney Water installed automatic meter reading devices, which show readings every five minutes, in 470 of the homes. A third of the homes with automated readers also have an in-home digital display.

The success of this trial will be determined by:

  • householders developing more water efficient behaviours
  • the number of leaks detected
  • a reduction in water use.

During the year, Sydney Water began planning with EnergyAustralia on the Newington Smart Village Trial. The trial, involving about 1,000 homes in Newington and Silverwater, will assess the benefits of integrating smart metering into the electricity network to monitor energy and water use. Equipment such as smart meters, home area networks and in-home displays will be installed in early 2010. The trial will run for two years.

Westleigh resident with a smart metering device

Westleigh resident with a Smart metering device

Leak prevention saves about 30 billion litres a year

Sydney Water invests over $100 million a year to reduce leaks. This includes:

  • active leak detection and repair
  • reducing pressure in the pipes
  • placing meters on the pipe system to detect leaks
  • replacing pipes in poor condition.

Sydney Water is on track to meet its Operating Licence target of lowering leaks to less than 105 million litres a day, currently about eight per cent of daily demand.

Staff use acoustic leak detection equipment, to listen for the noise water makes as it leaks from a pipe, to identify hidden leaks and then repair them. At least 18,000 km of pipes are inspected every year to help prevent leaks. Over 23 billion litres of water are saved a year through its Active Leak Detection and Repair Program and almost seven billion litres of water are saved through other programs.

In 2008–09, Sydney Water completed over 21,000 repairs of pipe leaks and breaks, including over 7,000 hidden leaks.

While water pressure in pipes is used to move water around the system, high water pressure can lead to burst water mains and leaks. The Water Pressure Management Program helps reduce leaks and improves the reliability of the water supply system.

Sydney Water’s focus is on areas experiencing high water pressure and frequent leaks or breaks. In 2008–09, 48 pressure reduction schemes were carried out, with 22 having fully reduced pressure. By using pressure regulating valves and system monitoring points, Sydney Water can achieve more consistent, lower water pressure levels across the water supply system.

The Bulk Water Flowmeter Program is improving measurement of flows throughout the drinking water network and identifying areas of high leakage. In 2008–09, Sydney Water installed 15 new flowmeters and renewed 20 existing meters.

During 2008–09, Sydney Water renewed and replaced 114 km of water mains to maintain the performance of water supply systems and to minimise interruptions to supply.


Innovative research with other water utilities

Sydney Water is working with other members of the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) to research innovative approaches to asset management. WSAA is the peak body of the Australian urban water industry.

Current projects include the management of gravity sewerage schemes, and pressurised pipeline systems. Sydney Water leads the gravity sewerage research. During 2008–09, Sydney Water worked with other WSAA members to:

  • investigate why some pressurised pipes break, how this can be prevented and if pipes can be replaced before failing
  • conduct four knowledge-sharing workshops
  • research, with international partners, failures in pressurised pipe valves and fittings.

In 2009–10, Sydney Water will continue to work on joint projects. Innovative techniques being investigated include a soil probing test for leaks, keyhole access to pipes for testing and a remote controlled camera that can snake around bends in pipes.

Overall, Sydney Water invested $5 million on 37 research and development projects during 2008–09. This is one of the largest water utility research programs in Australia.

Dammika Vitanage and Eve Rodrigues discussing Water Services Association of Australia project plans

Dammika Vitanage and Eve Rodrigues discussing Water Services Association of Australia project plans

The Sydney Water website contains more information on this topic.