The Greater Sydney Water Strategy is the NSW Government’s long-term strategy for the management of our water resources in the Sydney, Illawarra and Blue Mountains regions.
The strategy addresses the management of water, wastewater, stormwater and recycled water in the region, so that these services as well as drinking water services can be delivered sustainably and equitably into the future.
The strategy identifies the need to develop an enduring water supply for Sydney, so that we have a minimum amount of water available even in times of severe and prolonged drought. The strategy replaces the previous 2017 Metropolitan Water Plan for Sydney and is part of a suite of long-term water strategies being developed by the NSW Government. These strategies align with the NSW Water Strategy.
The Greater Sydney Water Strategy identifies and seeks to address five key challenges facing the Greater Sydney region, including the Illawarra and Blue Mountains. The key challenges are:
- Servicing a growing population
- Building resilience to drought and a changing climate
- Supporting the economy and jobs
- Putting water at the heart of our city and communities
- Improving water management outcomes for Aboriginal people
In preparing the Greater Sydney Water Strategy, we have identified 5 key priority areas where management of our water resources in the Greater Sydney region needs to be improved. These are:
- We understand how much water we need and when
- Our water systems are sustainable for the long term and resilient to extreme events
- Our city is green and liveable
- Our waterways and landscapes are healthy
- Water management and services meet community needs.
The priorities in the strategy are underpinned by 18 key actions for a more sustainable and resilient Greater Sydney.
The draft strategy proposes a range of solutions for a more sustainable and resilient Greater Sydney. These include:
- Continue investment in comprehensive water conservation and efficiency programs to save up to 49 GL/year by 2040 at a relatively low cost
- Increased utilisation of the existing Sydney Desalination Plant to produce up to an extra 20 GL/year
- Make much greater use of stormwater and recycled water to cool and green the city and support recreational activities
- Continue planning for new rainfall-independent supply options such as desalination and recycling. This includes investigating the use of purified recycled water for a range of end uses (noting that the use of purified recycled water in drinking water supplies would be subject to community consultation and require strict government approvals)
- Invest in upgrades, new connections and leak management to address the risks posed by ageing water and wastewater systems and infrastructure
- Integrate our water and land use planning more effectively to incorporate sustainable water use into building and landscaping design.
Sydney is growing–we expect by over 1 million extra people by 2036. Greater Sydney’s drinking water system provides a long-term supply of 515 to 540 billion litres of water per year. To put this in perspective, Sydney Harbour holds about 500 billion litres.
If population growth is low, we will need an additional 120 billion litres per year by 2060. If the population growth reflects a ‘mid-case’ scenario, the projected gap between what can be supplied sustainably and the demand for water increases to about 250 billion litres per year by 2060. This is equivalent to about half the volume of Sydney Harbour.
Implementing the strategy will increase our water security and drought resilience over time and it is complemented by the Greater Sydney Drought Response Plan. This plan has been developed by the water utilities, Sydney Water and WaterNSW in collaboration with the NSW Government, and puts in place the necessary governance, monitoring and reporting arrangements to enable the Government and water utilities to respond early and quickly as drought emerges. The water utilities are required to undertake an annual review and update the plan as needed to ensure it is fit for purpose for whenever drought re-occurs.