Responding to climate change

How we contribute to a sustainable future

Climate change affects us all, through hotter summers, longer droughts and extended downpours. We understand our role in ensuring a resilient future. No matter what comes, we'll help Greater Sydney thrive.

How climate change impacts what we do

Climate change will create direct challenges to the services we provide to you.

  • More severe droughts will lead to lower dam levels and reduced availability of water.
  • Prolonged heatwaves will increase water demand.
  • Bushfires and algal blooms in rivers and dams will impact our ability to filter and treat raw water.
  • Floods, storms and bushfires will damage or even overwhelm our infrastructure.
  • Higher sea levels will threaten assets such as pipes, stormwater channels, pumping stations and water resource recovery facilities located near the coast.

Through climate-focused adaptation, we'll face these challenges and continue to provide the reliable and affordable services you expect from us.

Bushfires raging in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney

Infrastructure at our Bondi Water Resource Recovery Facility

How what we do affects climate change

Using, storing and distributing water produces emissions that account for 10% of all global greenhouse gases. This means that the services we provide to over 5.25 million customers in Greater Sydney produce emissions that contribute to climate change.

We take our responsibility seriously. We're on the path to reduce emissions and lessen our impact on global climate change through abatement actions.

Our commitment to carbon net zero

Our carbon zero plan

Our carbon zero plan is a multi-pronged approach to reduce our total emissions. Our target is to achieve net zero carbon emissions across our business by 2030, and across our supply chain by 2040.

Our primary focuses are:

  • the machinery and processes we use in water treatment or wastewater treatment
  • the vehicles we use to repair, maintain and build our assets
  • removing our reliance on fossil fuel energy sources.

To find out how we're doing, see our latest Annual Environmental Performance Report.

Harnessing renewable energy

Overall, renewable energy generation takes care of up to 20% of our energy needs – enough to power over 15,000 homes each year. The different types of renewable energy we recover at our facilities are:

  • renewable electricity from hydroelectricity, co-generation and solar energy.
  • renewable gas, also known as biomethane.

Find out how our water resource recovery facilities process wastewater to recover, recycle and reuse, and generate the energy they need to do their job.

Becoming more energy efficient

Across our area of operations, we're optimising the energy we use and will continue to increase our energy efficiency. This includes:

  • introducing smarter mixing techniques at facilities
  • installing energy-efficient assets
  • minimising the power we use.

Our Parramatta and Potts Hill offices have NABERS ratings of 5 and 4.5 respectively. They also have 5-star Green Star ratings from Green Building Council Australia.

For the big picture
If you want more than a snapshot of our plan to achieve carbon net zero, see the whole thing: Our path to net carbon zero and beyond.

Adapting for the future

Taking the initiative

We co-led the development of the first Climate Change Adaptation Guidelines for Australia and New Zealand. These were an initiative of the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA). A total of 17 water utility partners collaborated to develop a systematic, consistent and coordinated approach to climate adaptation.

Our position on adaptation is summarised in our climate change adaptation fact sheet. It requires our employees to work towards a future that explores different levels of emissions ranging from high to low. The standard we use is for a future with medium emissions.

Supporting employees

We've developed an adaptation guide for our employees to use based on a medium emissions scenario. This helps us to plan and adapt infrastructure, processes and systems to better respond to the climate change impacts we expect. If you're a water utility or government body and you'd like a copy of our adaptation guide, please email us at s&

Working with other service providers

We work closely with the service providers who support or depend on reliable water delivery. They include:

  • electricity providers, to safeguard water supply during power outages from heatwaves or damage to substations
  • NSW Health, to ensure we can deliver services safely in extreme weather events
  • emergency services, especially firefighters, to ensure that they have enough water to draw on during a crisis.

Responding to drought

Greater Sydney is vulnerable to drought. We've been in drought for almost 10 of the past 20 years. With climate change, future droughts could be more frequent, longer and more severe. To maintain our vibrant city, we must have a resilient and reliable water supply.

The Greater Sydney Drought Response Plan lays out how Sydney Water and WaterNSW will work with the NSW Government to respond to water supply challenges and risks through different drought stages.

The plan aligns with our Greater Sydney Water Strategy commitments. These include increasing our focus on water use and conservation and efficiency, and planning for new water sources that don't depend on rainfall, such as purified recycled water