The NSW Government’s latest Greater Sydney Water Strategy, released in August 2022, shares the long-term vision of ensuring Sydney has sustainable and resilient water services for the next 20 to 40 years.
As part of the strategy, the NSW Government decided to optimise the use of the Sydney Desalination Plant, changing the approach to our operations to allow for greater flexibility and the ongoing production of clean, safe water.
For more information on how the NSW Government is securing Sydney’s future water supply visit the Greater Sydney Water Strategy.
The Sydney Desalination Plant is primarily regulated via the Water Industry Competition Act 2006 (WIC Act) and supporting regulations. We have two operating licences under WIC Act – a Retail Supplier’s Licence and a Network Operator’s Licence.
The Network Operator’s Licence crystalises the intent of our operating role supporting Sydney’s water supply resilience from the objectives of the Greater Sydney Water Strategy. Under the WIC Act, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) regulates SDP’s pricing and monitors its licensed operations.
Typically, every five years, IPART sets maximum prices that the Sydney Desalination Plant can charge for its services.
Sydney Water issues production requests to Sydney Desalination Plant based on our operating licence requirements. These requests are consistent with a Decision Framework that guides Sydney Water on the volume of water required from the Plant to assist Sydney Water in delivering high-quality drinking water to customers across Greater Sydney.
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.