Desalination for Greater Sydney

Sydney Water has been providing world-class water services to Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra for 135 years.
Find out more

How do you make freshwater from seawater?

Ever wondered how the magic happens? It's clever, but it's not quite magic. Find out more by having a quick read of our guide to making high quality drinking water!
Find out more

Seawater Intake and outfall

The first step of the process starts here..
Find out more

Pre-treatment filtration

Here the seawater is filtered and cleaned thoroughly
Find out more

Booster pumps & cartridge filters

Water pressure is boosted up to 10 bar - enough to shoot water up to a height of 100 metres!
Find out more

Reverse osmosis membranes

Where the magic happens! Clean filtered seawater is pumped at very high pressure through our reverse osmosis membrane system, where dissolved salts and minerals are removed.
Find out more

Post treatment

The fresh water produced by the reverse osmosis membrane process requires minerals to be added. This helps stabilise the water and ensures it tastes like any other drinking water.
Find out more

Treated water & transfer to Sydney Water

Our high quality drinking water is transported along an 1800mm diameter and 18km long pipeline passing under Botany Bay to the Sydney Water supply network at Erskineville
Find out more

Wastewater management

All wastewater flows are collected, treated and beneficially reused where possible, otherwise it is disposed of responsibly.
Find out more

Expansion of the plant

The Plant was originally constructed with expansion in mind - up to 500 million litres of high-quality drinking water a day – double its current capacity.
Find out more

Our Focus on the Environment

The Sydney Desalination Plant was built with a strong focus on the environment.
Find out more

History of desalination

A one page history of desalination, great for schools as resources or posters.
Find out more

Our team

Meet the team behind the Sydney Desalination Plant.

Find out more

The environment

Not only do we produce drinking water, but we're growing eucalyptus trees to help feed a koala colony!

Find out more

How desalination works

There are six key steps to transforming seawater into fresh drinking water.

Learn how now

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.

Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the Gweagal clan of the Dharawal people as the traditional owners of the land on which the Sydney Desalination Plant sits and we pay our respects to elders past and present.