Water quality and water use

Water conservation has long been recognised as vital to our sustainable growth. We take water management very seriously and have a range of programs to conserve water and protect nearby water sources from unwanted run-off.

Sydney Airport is almost entirely surrounded by water – the Alexandra Canal forms its northern boundary, the Cooks River its western boundary, Botany Bay its southern boundary and significant wetlands part of the eastern boundary. In addition, groundwater flows under the site.

Section 3.7 of the Airport Environment Strategy 2019-2024 sets out our key objectives in relation to water quality and water use, and our action plan sets out how these will be achieved. Our objectives are to manage the water resources and impacts of the airport through:

  • Minimising potable water use by using alternative and recycled water sources where appropriate
  • Minimising the impact of airport operations and construction on water quality in water bodies on or adjacent to the airport
  • Maintaining and improving the water quality and associated biodiversity values of the Sydney Airport Wetlands
  • Preventing soil and groundwater contamination occurring from airport activities and managing known and suspected contaminated sites

A water recycling plant and reticulation system for the T1 precinct was installed in 2009. Upgrades completed in 2017 means the plant is now capable of meeting greater than 60 percent of the overall airport demand within the T1 precinct. Additionally, we have adopted a number of water savings measures including the installation of water saving fittings in terminals and valve replacements to stop water leaks and overflows.

The operation of the recycled water treatment plant has resulted in a significant reduction in potable water use per passenger during the past decade, and helped maintain total water use at stable levels, despite the significant growth in airport development and passenger numbers over this time.

We adopt an integrated strategic approach to water management focused on water consumption, groundwater protection and treatment or disposal of wastewater and stormwater. We also report water performance data in our annual Sustainability Report.

Water consumption

Major water uses at the airport include restroom and toilet facilities within the terminals, cooling towers (for air conditioning), construction and maintenance activities and vehicle washing facilities.

While total water demand at the airport is forecast to rise, Sydney Airport is committed to reducing total water consumption per passenger.

We continue to implement water savings initiatives which, combined with the ongoing expansion of the recycled water production capacity, is expected to partially offset demand growth for potable water.

We regularly consult with Sydney Water to ensure that the projected growth in potable water demand can continue to be supported from the external network. Surface water quality

Water quality at the airport is managed through a number of initiatives which are outlined in Section 3.7.3 of our Airport Environment Strategy.

To minimise the impact of airport operations on surface water quality in adjacent waterways, we work closely with airport tenants, operators and contractors to manage activities that have the potential to impact on water quality and continue to identify opportunities to improve water quality.

Potential water quality impacts from construction and maintenance activities are managed via development and activity-specific Environmental Management Plans. All bulk liquid and hazardous materials stores must be appropriately bunded to ensure that any spills or leaks can be contained on site.

Water quality monitoring

Monitoring and reporting on water quality are also important components in managing the airport’s water cycle, particularly with the introduction of recycled water and alternative water sources on the site.

Sydney Airport continues to implement its Water Quality Monitoring Plan, which guides biannual stormwater monitoring on the Airport. Water quality results are used to ensure that water sources are supplied at a quality that is fit for the intended use and is critical to managing the risks associated with water recycling processes.

The quality of water leaving the airport through stormwater channels and run-off is monitored to ensure stormwater management measures are treating stormwater as designed, and to monitor discharge to Cooks River, Alexandra Canal, Mill Stream and Botany Bay.

Section 3.7.5 of the Airport Environment Strategy details our five-year water quality and water use action plan.