Greater Sydney Desalination Program

Greater Sydney Desalination Program

Under the Greater Sydney Desalination Program (GSDP), preliminary investigations are underway to further explore seawater desalination options that can:

  • provide a rainfall independent supply of drinking water, and
  • significantly improve water supply security during prolonged and extreme droughts.

The program includes assessing the feasibility of up to 650 million litres per day (ML/day) of new desalination capacity in the Sydney and Illawarra regions. This water supply would be in addition to the NSW Government’s plans to expand the existing desalination plant at Kurnell.

Key benefits

Greater Sydney including the Illawarra are key contributors to the Australian and NSW economies.

Greater Sydney is now a global city with a high reputation for liveability and a cultural diversity that attracts international investment and appeals to visitors. Industry & Investment NSW estimated Sydney’s economy accounts for almost a quarter of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product and 70 per cent of the NSW economy.

Greater Sydney currently has around five million people and this is expected to grow to 6.4 million by 2036. People in a growing city will need water for drinking, cooking, washing, making products, producing food, fighting fires, keeping cool, watering gardens and for recreational activities.

It is estimated that in 2017, the Illawarra contributed more than $16 billion to the state’s economy. Major metropolitan centres, like the Illawarra, need water supply certainty so that businesses can continue to invest, plan ahead, generate economic growth and increase local employment.

Having a safe, secure water supply for Greater Sydney including the Illawarra aligns with metropolitan and regional growth strategies over the coming years and will be key to continued prosperity, growth and wellbeing of the community.

A safe, secure, supply

The GSDP will ensure a safe, secure supply of high-quality drinking water for the Sydney and Illawarra regions.

Turning seawater into drinking water means water supplies in Sydney and the Illawarra will be less affected by rainfall variations, the influence of changes in climate and will be better protected against future droughts.

Once desalinated, the water is treated to drinking water standards that meet the Australian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines and NSW Health requirements. This means the quality of water sourced from desalination will be as good as the water from all other sources in Sydney, the Illawarra and Blue Mountains.

Having additional desalination capacity of up to 650 ML/day would provide drinking water to over a million homes each day. The program will contribute to broader water security across the region, alongside dams, water efficiency and water reuse projects.

Planning process

The first stage of the GSDP involves the early design and preliminary environmental assessment work needed to prepare for a continuing drought and meet our future water needs.

Should dam levels continue to decrease at the current rate, WaterNSW will progress a detailed project design which would be subject to a rigorous and comprehensive environmental assessment.

Decisions on planning approval processes and whether to proceed to construction have not yet been made. These will follow at a later stage.

Early planning work for the GSDP includes the identification of potential sites for new desalination plants and appropriate connection points into the water supply network. No specific sites have been selected for potential new desalination plants as yet.

Should the drought cease, then the need to progress to any subsequent stages of the program (as illustrated below) will be carefully considered.


Community engagement

A robust community engagement program will be carried out alongside the environmental assessment process. Feedback from the community will be taken into consideration before any decision is made regarding proceeding to construction of any plants.

In the meantime, WaterNSW is keen to receive feedback on the issues that are important to members of the community and understand what people see as the potential key benefits of the program. We invite you to complete this online survey to share your views.

WaterNSW will keep the community informed at every stage of the program with updated information on this webpage.

Contact us

For more information please contact us on:

Phone: 1800 333 626



Wednesday 19 February
2,106,788 ML
2,596,150 ML
7,006 ML
1,001 ML
212,766 ML
Wednesday 19 February