Operating Licence

Setting out our responsibilities

Our Operating Licence 2019–2023 (2.7MB), which contains our Customer Contract (6.4MB), began in November 2019. Our Operating Licence is what allows us to supply you with drinking water, wastewater, recycled water and stormwater services.

Our Operating Licence 

In addition to allowing us to supply you with drinking water, wastewater, recycled water and stormwater services, our Operating Licence also sets requirements for us to provide services to you. These include: 

  • water quality
  • asset performance, including system performance standards
  • the Economic Level of Water Conservation (ELWC)
  • environmental indicators and management
  • customer and consumer rights in the Customer Contract.

As at 31 January 2021, Sydney Water is also responsible for planning water supply augmentation, as directed by the Minister for Water. You can find out more in the Ministerial directive regarding supply augmentation planning for Greater Sydney (404KB).

Our Operating Licence allows us to do what we do - provide water and wastewater services to Greater Sydney.

Operating Licence review

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) reviews our Operating Licence and Customer Contract about every 5 years. The review provides an opportunity for us, stakeholders and customers to comment on whether the licence and contract are working well or could be improved. After considering this feedback, IPART recommends a new version of the licence and contract to the Minister for Water, Property and Housing. 

Throughout the review, we work with customers and the community to ensure we understand your needs and values. In the most recent review, we adapted some of our plans to align with what customers said they want and are willing to pay for. This included decisions on regulated service standards, proposed pricing structures and specific projects.

Customer Contract

The Operating Licence also contains our Customer Contract (6.4MB). This contract sets out our minimum service standards. It also outlines your rights and obligations as a customer. 

To find out more, read Our contract with you (527KB) which summarises the full contract. We also send a copy of this document to all customers with the bill once a year.

Our Customer Contract also includes diagrams that show who is responsible for maintaining authorised connections to our water and wastewater systems. Note that these diagrams are illustrative only and should not be relied on for any purpose other than to help you understand the provisions in this contract.

Drinking water system (click to enlarge)

Wastewater system (click to enlarge)

Economic Level of Water Conservation (ELWC)

Our new approach to water conservation

At Sydney Water, we continuously drive water efficiency. To help us get value for money on our water conservation investment, we developed a different approach in 2016. The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) approved and reviewed the ELWC under our Operating Licence in 2016. We now use the Economic Level of Water Conservation method to select our water conservation programs. The current 'value of water under ELWC is outlined in the table below.


The ELWC adapts in response to dam levels to determine the 'value of water'.

How does the ELWC method work?

When we decide whether to invest in water conservation projects, we look at the potential costs and benefits for:

  • Sydney Water
  • our customers
  • the environment.

This method adapts to changes in dam storage levels so we can make sure we're making the right investment at the right time. Each year, we report to the government on how we conserve water in our Water Conservation Report (1.59MB). This report outlines our plan for the next 5 years and how we used ELWC to target our projects. It also reports on costs and water savings from our program across the year.

Read more about: 

The value of water using ELWC


August 2021

July 2021

Dam level at start of month



The value of water*

$0.31 / kL

$0.31 / kL

Economic level of savings

8.1 ML/day

8.1 ML/day

*Note the value of water is NOT the price. The value reflects the worth of water depending on storage levels. The economic level of savings reflects our baseline water conservation program, as dams are above 80%.

Information and services to competitors

We will always:

  • negotiate in good faith with licensees and potential competitors under the Water Industry Competition Act 2006 (WIC Act)
  • publish servicing information
  • establish a code of conduct with WIC Act licensees where required under a WIC Act licence.

Each year, we publish a report on the Provision of information and services to WIC Act licensees and potential competitors (353KB).