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Historically, fresh water supplies delivered to Sydney's homes and businesses have mostly been sourced from Warragamba Dam. But when severe prolonged droughts began threatening the city’s water supplies in the mid 2000’s, the NSW Government decided to build a desalination plant to help with Sydney’s water security. Since it was completed in 2010, the Sydney Desalination Plant has drawn water from the ocean and transformed it into high-quality drinking water, supplying up to 15 per cent of the city’s drinking water.

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About us

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Education

Learn more about how we turn seawater into fresh, clean drinking water. SDP is becoming increasingly relied upon as a key part of the city's drinking water supply network. Desalination has an important - and increasing - part to play in ensuring communities have safe and reliable supplies of drinking water. For more information on desalination, we have a selection of fact sheets and resources designed to support students.

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Desalination and the water cycle

We all rely on what’s known as the natural water cycle and the managed water cycle to supply us with enough fresh water to drink, grow produce and feed our animals. This page contains a brief explanation of how these cycles work – and how desalinated water fits into the picture.

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Our role in supplying Sydney's water

Historically, fresh water supplies delivered to Sydney's homes and businesses have mostly been sourced from Warragamba Dam. But when severe prolonged droughts began threatening the city’s water supplies in the mid 2000’s, the NSW Government decided to build a desalination plant to help with Sydney’s water security. Since it was completed in 2010, the Sydney Desalination Plant has drawn water from the ocean and transformed it into high-quality drinking water, supplying up to 15 per cent of the city’s drinking water.

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How desalination works

To make fresh, clean drinking water from seawater, Sydney Desalination Plant uses reverse osmosis technology. Water from the Plant is monitored and treated throughout the entire process to meet Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, which makes it among the best in the world. There are six key steps in the desalination process outlined on this page.

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View factsheets

This page includes educational downloads on "How the Sydney Desalination Plant is helping Australian wildlife", "How do you make freshwater from seawater?", and the "History of desalination".

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News & Media

Check in here for SDP news releases and to make media-related enquiries.

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Regulation

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.

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Contact us

You can get in touch with us via phone, email or our online enquiry form.

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Privacy Policy

Sydney Desalination Plant Pty Limited (ACN 125 935 177) (referred to as “SDP“, “we” and “us“) recognise that the privacy of your personal information is important to you and is committed to protecting the privacy of any personal information we collect from you. Unless you give us your consent to do otherwise, we will only collect, use and disclose your personal information in accordance with this Privacy Policy.

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Our History

Serving Sydney since 2010, and producing up to 91 gigalitres a year, the Sydney Desalination Plant is Sydney's only major non-rainfall dependent source of drinking water.

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Our mission

Our vision is to be a great water company that provides long-term value to the people of Sydney and our shareholders. While the Sydney Desalination Plant was originally built in 2007 to respond to the worst drought in a century, recent experiences have shown just how important the Plant is to bolster drinking water supplies across Greater Sydney.

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Our operator

The day-to-day operations and maintenance of the Sydney Desalination Plant and pipeline is outsourced to Veolia Water Australia, which is part of the international water, waste and energy management giant Veolia Group.

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Our team

Sydney Desalination Plant has an efficient structure with a lean, expert management team that oversees the prudent operation and maintenance of the Plant and overall management of all assets, key stakeholder, investor and customer relationships, as well as compliance. The Plant’s corporate structure consists of a small, high-performing management team including dedicated resources for ongoing finance, operations oversight, office administration, stakeholder management and regulatory support.

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Ownership structure

Sydney Desalination Plant is jointly owned by its two long-term investors, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board and Utilities Trust of Australia infrastructure fund. SDP’s shareholders have significant experience in sourcing, financing, executing and managing complex infrastructure assets around the world.

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Areas we serve

The Sydney Desalination Plant is Sydney’s only major non-rainfall dependent source of drinking water and operates continuously to produce up to about 15 per cent of the city’s drinking water needs.

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Expansion

The Sydney Desalination Plant was originally constructed with expansion in mind and the expectation that in the future it could produce up to 500 million litres of high-quality drinking water a day – double its current capacity. In 2019, when Greater Sydney’s dam storage levels fell to their lowest levels in more than a decade due to drought, the NSW Government formally asked SDP to begin the planning process for an expansion. As a result, in recent years, the Plant has demonstrated the vital role it can play in assisting Sydney Water in managing the city’s water needs.

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How desalination works

Making fresh, clean drinking water from seawater is complex and relies a lot on scientific expertise and technology. This page contains a short video that explains what's involved in the process.

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Regulatory framework

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.

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Water quality

Like all drinking water in Australia, water from the Sydney Desalination Plant is treated to meet Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and is regulated by NSW Health. These guidelines are set by the Commonwealth and State governments and address public health and aesthetic concerns.

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Operator licences

The Sydney Desalination Plant holds both a Network Infrastructure Operator Licence and a Retail Supplier’s Licence under the WIC Act. These, and other, licences are administered by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) under delegation from the NSW Minister for Water. IPART is responsible for reviewing the licences and ensuring compliance, including undertaking periodic audits.

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Pricing

The maximum prices that the Sydney Desalination Plant charges are set by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) under the WIC Act.

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Project approvals

The Sydney Desalination Plant holds a NSW Minister for Planning issued planning approval. When the Sydney Desalination Plant project was first developed, a detailed Project Approval under former/previous s75J of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 was put in place. The Project Approval provided guidance and requirements on how the Plant was to be built and how it should be operated and maintained. The Sydney Desalination Plant ensures its compliance with the Project Approval by having the requirements feed down into its internal management plans, work procedures, regular reviews and audits.

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Sustainability

The Sydney Desalination Plant was built with a strong focus on the environment. Today, minimising environmental impacts remains a high priority and focus for our business. Sydney Desalination Plant places a high priority on establishing best social and governance practices in our operations and are committed to meeting all our regulatory requirements.

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Social and Governance

Sydney Desalination Plant places a high priority on establishing best environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices in our operations. Located on the land of the Gweagal clan of the Dharawal people (on the Kurnell Peninsula), Sydney Desalination Plant works with the La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council to acknowledge the traditional custodians and minimise any impacts on the local land and marine environment.

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Environmental

The Sydney Desalination Plant was built with a strong focus on the environment. Today, minimising environmental impacts remains a high priority and focus for our business. Our Plant is powered by 100 per cent renewable energy. We are proud that our desalination operations and processes to make fresh, clean drinking water from seawater have minimal impact on the local marine environment.

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Environmental policies

Desalination is an energy-intensive process. With that in mind, the Sydney Desalination Plant was built with a strong focus on the environment. Today, minimising environmental impacts remains a high priority and focus for our business, while providing a secure supply of high-quality drinking water to Greater Sydney. SDP is committed to understand and respond to the environmental, social and governance impacts of our business activities, and we have developed a variety of policies and programs over many years to protect the local land and marine environment.

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Search results

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Operating licences

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Careers

At the Sydney Desalination Plant, we pride ourselves in being an inclusive and exciting business that challenges our staff to strive to be the best version of themselves. We are a small, high performing team, where you can utilise and grow your skills and pursue your interests across our business.

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Applications

This is the place to apply for any available positions at the Sydney Desalination Plant.

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SDP Chair appointment

July 1, 2020: The Board of Sydney Desalination Plant (SDP), announced today the appointment of Patricia McKenzie as its new Chair, effective immediately. Ms McKenzie has more than 35 years’ experience in the Australian energy and infrastructure sector with a particular focus on industry governance, market design and regulatory reform.

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SDP water ready and available

August 13, 2020: The Sydney Desalination Plant (SDP), confirmed today that it is available to produce water if required to assist Sydney’s metropolitan area water system resilience. During the last drought, the plant produced up to 15 per cent of Sydney’s drinking water needs – or an average of 250 million litres of water a day.

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Koala Feeding Program

The Sydney Desalination Plant is expanding its role from supplying water to thirsty Sydneysiders to food supplier to a hungry colony of koalas, as part of its commitment to local environmental conservation.

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SDP welcomes opportunity to optimise its operations

Sydney Desalination Plant welcomes the release of the NSW Government’s Greater Sydney Water Strategy and the opportunity to deepen its role in securing the city’s water supply. Chief Executive Officer Philip Narezzi said the Strategy’s recommendation of a change to a more flexible operating regime paves the way for the plant to optimise its operations and be available to increase its supply of high-quality drinking water across the metropolitan network when requested.

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Green and Golden Bell frogs

The Sydney Desalination Plant (SDP) on the Kurnell Peninsula is the new home for hundreds of endangered green and golden bell frogs (Litoria aurea) – nearly three decades after they were last spotted in the area. More than 1,000 tadpoles have been introduced to the Plant’s site, which includes a 15-hectare Conservation Area that connects to Kamay Botany Bay National Park.

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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.