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Indigenous Mural Honours Local Stories and Traditions

Work has begun on a colourful revamp of an above-ground section of the 18-kilometre pipeline that delivers drinking water from Sydney Desalination Plant into the Sydney Water supply network.

Dennis Golding (Kamilaroi, Gamilaraay) and Carmen Glynn-Braun (Kaytetye, Anmatyerr and Arrernte), who are co-founders of the Indigenous artistic collective Re-Right, worked closely with the local community and elders to come up with a mural design for the 800m stretch of pipeline that runs alongside Airport Drive and Alexandra Canal at Tempe.

Dennis and Carmen said the design is based on key elements from the local land and seawaters that are home to the Bidjigal, Gadigal and Dharawal people.

“It celebrates the stories, traditions and knowledge of local lands and waters,” Golding said.
“It is important to truthfully share these stories and uncover past histories through the lens and voices of the community.”

Both artists have worked on numerous public artworks across Sydney that honour Aboriginal culture and experiences, including designs projected on the pylons of the Harbour Bridge for Sydney’s 2022 New Year’s Eve Fireworks and artwork on the roadways and earth mounds of the Sydney Gateway in 2021.

Young Aboriginal artists Dakota Dixon-Campbell and Wirrin Lowe have advised on key icons and imagery for the mural, such as local shellfish that can be found in the Cooks River and Alexandra Canal, and wattles that bloom across the shores of the local area.

“We wanted to support young and up-and-coming artists to ensure generational storytelling within the project,” Glynn-Braun said.

“We took them to the pipeline, and they picked out different motifs for our design that were significant in the local area’s stories, such as seagulls, oysters, and wattles.

“From there, we laid it out to continue this pattern of a coastline from a topographical lens so that it would seem as though you are exploring country from one end of the pipeline to the other.”

A key inspiration for the mural’s design was the shape of the boomerang, a significant cultural object made from the bend of mangrove trees like those found near the pipeline.

The bend of the boomerang inspired the artists to create a key pattern of two waterways that references the coastline and rivers to which the pipeline is connected.

The initial phase of the mural project began at the start of March 2024, with the cleaning of the pipeline’s exterior.
Artists Jo Breneger and Leia Sidery from Indigo Jo, a bespoke signage and muralist company, began painting the mural design in late March 2024, with the entire project expected to be completed in June 2024.

The pipeline transports up to 250 million litres of desalinated drinking water – the equivalent of more than 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools – every day from the Plant at Kurnell to Sydney Water’s Erskineville supply network.

“This initiative is all about honouring and celebrating the rich stories and traditions of Australia’s Aboriginal communities,” SDP’s Chief Executive Officer Phil Narezzi said.

“It’s more than just a mural – it’s a meaningful expression of our deep respect and partnership with the Indigenous peoples of this land. We can’t wait to see this vibrant artwork come to life, and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is the Sydney Desalination Plant operating?
    While the Plant was originally designed to operate only in times of drought, it has remained operational since 2019 to help address several storage dam water quality issues arising from bushfires, flooding and significant maintenance tasks in Sydney Water’s supply network.

    The Sydney Desalination Plant’s WICA Network Operator’s Licence enables the Plant to remain operational, recognising that the Plant has always been, and will continue to be, an essential component of Sydney’s water management and an integral part of our city’s water-resilient future.
  • How much water does the Plant produce?
    The Plant can provide up to 15 per cent of Sydney’s average drinking water needs without any reliance on rainfall.

    It treats, filters and re-mineralises seawater to produce up to 91.25 gigalitres per annum of high-quality drinking water.

    Under our WICA Network Operator’s Licence, the Plant will operate on a “flexible full-time basis”, producing between about 20 gigalitres to 91.25 gigalitres every year.
  • What does desalinated water taste like?
    Sydney Desalination Plant water is treated to taste the same as Sydney’s other drinking water.

    Like dam water, water from the desalination plant is treated to meet Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, which makes it among the best in the world.
  • Who owns the Plant?
    Sydney Desalination Plant is jointly owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board and the Utilities Trust of Australia, which is managed by Morrison & Co. Find out more on our About Us page.
  • Why is desalination important?
    The Sydney Desalination Plant is Sydney’s only major sources of non-rainfall dependent drinking water. It is one effective way of securing Sydney’s water supply against the effects of climate change and natural disasters and the increase in demand due to population growth, warmer weather and urban greening projects.

    While the Plant was originally designed to respond to Australia’s severe millennium drought, recent experiences have demonstrated that drought is only one type of event that requires support from the Plant to ensure clean and safe drinking water for Greater Sydney.

    The Plant has been a reliable drinking water supply during floods and bushfires, which caused water quality challenges from time to time in Sydney’s storage dams.
  • Where does the water go?
    The Plant can supply water to homes and businesses south of Sydney Harbour and as far west as Bankstown, as part of all their water supply.

    Sydney Water uses a variety of water sources to supply customer needs. Where your water comes from depends on demand and where in Sydney you live.

    If you live in the blue-shaded area on this map, you may receive water from the dams, the Sydney Desalination Plant or a combination of both. The Plant's water proportion will change throughout the day due to variations in supply and demand.

    Everyone will benefit from desalination because it allows more water to be left in the dams, which means a more secure water supply for Sydney.
  • How much energy does the Plant use?
    The Sydney Desalination Plant requires roughly 38 megawatts at full production and is 100 per cent powered by renewable energy.

    The average energy needed to provide drinking water to one household is about the same as the energy used to run a household fridge.
  • What’s the impact on the environment?
    Sydney Desalination Plant places a high priority on minimising any environmental impacts – both on land and in the water.

    To support this, the Plant has put in place a world first stringent six-year marine environment monitoring program. The marine environment was monitored for three years before construction and three years after the Plant became operational. It demonstrated that the Plant has minimal effect on the marine environment.

    On land, a third of the Plant site at Kurnell has been maintained as a conservation area. This area is protected, and native species of flora and fauna are regularly monitored. This includes a program to survey the numbers of grey-headed flying foxes and green and golden bell frogs in the area.