Planning for Rainfall Independent Supply

Planning for Rainfall Independent Supply


Water is our most precious resource. Our future depends on how we manage it, together.

Greater Sydney’s experience with severe drought and intense rain shows how quickly our water supplies can deplete and replenish. Had drought conditions experienced from 2017 to 2020 continued, there would have been limited time to secure the water supplies in Greater Sydney including the Illawarra.

WaterNSW, Sydney Water and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment are working together to develop the Greater Sydney Water Strategy so that we have secure water sources into the future.

As part of the work to develop the strategy, WaterNSW is investigating potential new rainfall independent drinking water supply options.

Preliminary investigations are underway to further explore additional seawater desalination options that can provide safe, secure and resilient supplies of drinking water for Greater Sydney including the Illawarra.

Greater Sydney and 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 cultural diversity that attracts international investment and appeals to visitors.

Greater Sydney currently has around five million people and is expected to continue to grow to in the coming years. People in a growing city will need water for drinking, cooking, washing, making products, producing food, fighting fires, keeping cool, watering gardens and for recreation.

The Greater Sydney Water Strategy will consider a range of water supply and demand options – all designed to benefit the community and protect the environment.

Desalination - Safe, secure, resilient.

Turning seawater into drinking water is a proven technology that would mean future Greater Sydney water supplies will have additional safeguarded for water quality variations, contribute to securing long-term supply and, importantly, be resilient to future droughts.

Once desalinated, the water is treated to meet Australian drinking water standards and NSW Health requirements. This means the quality of water sourced from desalination will be as good to use as the water from all other sources in the Sydney catchment.

In Greater Sydney, desalination already contributes to broader water security across the region, alongside dams, water efficiency and water reuse projects to support our water needs.

How desalination works

How Desal works

The Greater Sydney Water Strategy will lay the foundation for our water future.

Work on potential desalination options to-date has involved early planning and environmental assessment work, including work on a potential plant in the Illawarra (PDF, 371.98 KB).

Early planning work includes preliminary examination of potential sites for new desalination infrastructure, pipeline routes and connection points into the water network. No decisions have yet been made on final sites, planning approvals or whether to proceed to construction.

These will be carefully considered by the NSW Government as part of the Greater Sydney Water Strategy once the preliminary planning and investigative works are complete.

Next steps

The NSW Government is continuing its work to develop the Greater Sydney Water Strategy.

The strategy is examining a range of water supply and demand options to safeguard Greater Sydney’s water supply for the long term.  In addition to desalination these may include recycling and water efficiency projects.

The Greater Sydney Water Strategy is expected to be released for public consultation in mid to late 2021. Should desalination planning and investigations be progressed as part of the strategy, more information will be provided to the community.

Contact us

For more information please contact us on:

Phone: 1800 333 626



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Saturday 25 June