Drought proof our city

With more than 90 per cent of NSW in drought, including Greater Sydney, it is essential that governments invest in long-term, responsible water infrastructure such as water recycling. 

Australia is the driest continent on earth and with our projected population growth and global heating, water demand across our city will grow by approximately 30 per cent.

As part of the light rail construction along George Street, we negotiated with Transport for NSW for a continuous recycled water pipe from Circular Quay to beyond Central Station.

This could enable connection to new or existing water recycling plants, allowing the City of Sydney to use recycled water in major parks like Hyde Park, as well as unlocking the potential to provide recycled water to buildings in the CBD. Since cooling towers make up more than half of the water use of a commercial building, connecting to recycled water would have a huge impact on reducing water use in the city centre. We’re also looking at retrofitting our own major properties along George Street, including Sydney Town Hall, so they could be connected to this future recycled water pipe network.

In 2018, we switched on Australia’s largest urban stormwater recycling scheme in Green Square, which is providing recycled stormwater to the new parks and buildings in Green Square Town Centre. When the 14 hectare town centre is fully developed, the scheme will provide recycled stormwater via dual plumbing to 7,000 houses and workplaces for toilet, laundry and garden purposes.

We now want to switch on stage two of our Green Square recycling scheme, which would provide recycled wastewater to residential, commercial and community buildings across the entire 278 hectare Green Square.

However, the IPART ‘retail minus’ determination used by Sydney Water is standing in the way of a commercial water recycling market from emerging across Greater Sydney, including stage two of Green Square and our plans for Sydney CBD. ‘Retail minus’ acts as a financial disincentive because it allows Sydney Water to place a premium surcharge on excess wastewater that is sent back into the sewerage system after water recycling. 

The City of Sydney is calling on the NSW Government to scrap ‘retail minus’ and revert to the ‘non-residential prices’ that all other businesses are charged, so we can urgently move to recycling wastewater – particularly in urban renewal areas across Greater Sydney. 

Ask the Water Minister to direct IPART to scrap the so-called ‘retail minus determination’ and revert to ‘non-residential prices’ to make it financially viable for commercial water recycling operators to recycle wastewater in NSW.

The City of Sydney leads the way in drought proofing our city, switching on some of Australia’s largest stormwater recycling schemes in Sydney Park and Green Square and laying the foundation for a CBD water recycling scheme by installing a recycled water pipe along George Street as part of the light rail construction. 

Now we want to expand the Green Square water recycling scheme so residents can use recycled wastewater for washing clothes, flushing toilets and watering gardens. But the regulator’s ‘retail minus’ determination allows Sydney Water to place a premium surcharge on the removal of the by-product produced by water recycling. This creates a financial disincentive for commercial operators to participate in the market.

Tell the Water Minister that if she is serious about responding to the drought, she must scrap ‘retail minus’ so that a commercial water recycling market can thrive - not just in the City of Sydney, but across Greater Sydney.