Environmental protection

Environmental protection is important to us

We play a huge role in contributing to healthy waterways. We consider the environment when planning, designing and managing sustainable water solutions in our liveable city. But we don’t do it alone. Many organisations in Greater Sydney work together on urban water management. You can help us, too.

Our role in protecting rivers and beaches

Our beaches

Our beaches are part of what makes Sydney such an iconic city. They have significant environmental, social and economic value to our community and help make  liveable cities.

We protect the health of beaches and oceans by making sure wastewater is cleaned to the right standard and released in the right location. This means beaches and swimming areas stay clean and safe for recreation.

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 sewage treatment system impact monitoring.

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

We all play a role in making sure our beaches stay clean and safe.

You can do your part, too. Help us keep plastic waste out of our oceans by only using bottled water when you really need to. Try using a refillable water bottle instead. Learn more about Tap water versus bottled water.

Did you know?

Beachwatch publishes a report on the State of the Beaches in October each year and grades the 38 ocean beaches along the Greater Sydney coastline. You can check Sydney beach forecasts to find somewhere safe to swim.

Our rivers

Many people in our city live close to creeks and rivers and use them for swimming, boating, fishing 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 and flow.

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 thAustralian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine water quality. We regularly report these results.

Kayaking is a popular way to spend time on our beautiful rivers.

Find more information in our EPA pollution monitoring data reports and sewage treatment system impact monitoring.

Managing stormwater is also an important part of caring for our waterways. Be mindful that the drain is just for rain.

Did you know?

373 million plastic water bottles end up as waste each year! 

Learn more about Tap water versus bottled water (132KB).

Our environmental and sustainability performance

Environmental performance

We continually monitor our environmental performance. You can learn more about our environmental performance indicators in our Operating Licence (2.7MB)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
  • 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:

Each year, we report on our environmental performance through our Annual environmental performance report (1,012 KB), which includes our statement of implementation of our Special Objectives and our Environmental performance indicators report.

Sustainability performance

There are other ways that we’re helping to protect the environment. We’re improving our operations to be a more sustainable business.

We’re striving to improve how we do things until our operations cause no harm to the environment while supporting a thriving, sustainable and liveable city.

Some of the things we’re working on are:

We test catchment water to protect our water supply system.

Get involved

There are simple ways you can also help us protect the environment.

Our environmental policy, planning and management

Policy and planning

We've developed our Environment Strategy (3.6MB) to guide us.

The strategy has objectives, priority outcomes and targets across 4 themes:

  • Healthy waterways and clean beaches
  • Create resilient and liveable places
  • Care for nature, land and heritage
  • Efficient and sustainable resource use.

Read our Environmental policy (69KB) to learn about our commitment to the environment.

Management system

We use an Environmental Management System (EMS) to protect the environment in our day to day operations. Our EMS is part of our integrated management system which includes Quality, Safety and Asset Management components.

The EMS helps us manage, review, correct, and improve our activities and operations to minimise our impacts on the environment.  It's certified to international standard ISO14001:2015.

  • demonstrated due diligence in environmental management
  • got top management commitment
  • got predictable and consistent processes
  • reduced waste management costs
  • reduced use of energy and materials.

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.