Environmental protection

Protecting the environment is important to us

Clean waterways and healthy ecosystems are at the heart of our vision of creating a better life with world-class water services. We consider the environment when we plan, design and manage sustainable water solutions for liveable cities.

Protecting our beaches

Our beaches have significant environmental, recreational and economic value. They're a major part of what makes our cities liveable. We protect beaches and the ocean by making sure wastewater is cleaned to the right standard and released in the right location.

We monitor wastewater to assess any impacts on marine ecosystem health, and we've spent more than $3 billion in the past 25 years to improve beach and harbour water quality.

Beachwatch publishes State of the Beaches reports in October each year and grades the 38 ocean beaches along the Greater Sydney coastline. It also provides Sydney beach forecasts to help you find somewhere safe to swim in the ocean or harbour.

Protecting our rivers

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

Some water resource recovery facilities release treated wastewater into creeks and rivers. These important ecosystems are sensitive to changes in water quality and flow. We use special treatment processes to remove nutrients and fine particles from the wastewater. We also monitor sites downstream of wastewater release points to assess any impacts on river health.

Our monitoring program is consistent with the Australian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality, and we regularly report these results. You can view our EPA pollution monitoring data reports and wastewater monitoring and reports.

Managing stormwater is also an important part of caring for our waterways.

RiverWatch® is our recreational monitoring and reporting program for the rivers, creeks, lakes and harbour inlets of Greater Sydney's cities and suburbs. It monitors water quality at new and established Urban Plunge® swim sites, and helps us identify new swimmable sites.

Protecting our biodiversity

Our operations stretch across environmentally sensitive bushland and waterways. Some of our sites are valuable enough to be part of the NSW Biodiversity Offsets Scheme. The scheme is governed by the NSW Government Department of Planning and Environment, and recognises the importance of our stewardship. We joined as a landholder and established our Biodiversity Offsets Program in November 2018.

Selling our biodiversity offset credits helps fund the conservation of habitats for threatened flora and fauna on our land. Biodiversity credits are managed by the Biodiversity Conservation Trust

Our Picton Water Resource Recovery Facility in south-western Sydney was the first site in our program. The land surrounding Picton Farm was registered in the NSW Biodiversity Offset Scheme in June 2021.

Red Bloodwood (Corymbia gummifera)

Threatened species protected at our Picton site include the Southern Myotis Bat, Large-eared Pied Bat and the Cumberland Plain Land Snail. Ecological communities protected at Picton Farm include Grey Myrtle – Lilly Pilly dry rainforest in dry gullies of the Sydney Basin Bioregion and South East Corner Bioregion, Cumberland Plain shale woodlands, Sydney Turpentine – Ironbark forest, and Cumberland shale sandstone Ironbark forest.

Our second site was the Winmalee Water Resource Recovery Facility, surrounded by the Blue Mountains National Park. Ecological communities protected at Sydney Water's biodiversity offset site at Winmalee include Red Bloodwood – Grey Gum woodland, Red Bloodwood – Scribbly Gum woodland, Smooth-barked Apple – Red Bloodwood, and Leucopogon fletcheri subsp. fletcheri.

If you have questions about our Biodiversity Offsets Program, email biodiversityoffsets@sydneywater.com.au.

Our environmental performance

We continually monitor our environmental performance. Our wastewater pipes and water resource recovery facilities must meet strict environment protection licence conditions set by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA). Our Operating Licence sets out our environmental performance indicators and responsibilities.

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 EPA pollution monitoring data reports and aquatic monitoring program reports. Each year, we report on our environmental performance through our Annual environmental performance report. This includes our statement of implementation of our special objectives and our environmental performance indicators report.

Our sustainability performance

We strive to improve how we do things until our operations cause no harm to the environment while supporting thriving, sustainable and liveable cities, and we're improving our operations to be a more sustainable business.

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 in our 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, and be champions for the environment, public health and resilience.

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.

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.

Visit Sydney Water Talk to learn more about our projects and provide feedback.