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

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 use

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 potable water consumption per passenger.

We continue to implement water saving initiatives to partially offset demand growth for potable water.

Our onsite water treatment plant was built in 2009 and supplies recycled water to T1. 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.

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

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 improvement opportunities.

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 are appropriately bunded to ensure that any spills or leaks are contained on site.

Sydney Airport continues to implement its Stormwater Quality Monitoring Plan, which guides biannual stormwater monitoring on the Airport. The plan sets out the scope and process for sampling sites, including control sites, across the airport.

We continue to work with airport operators to reduce spills, which may impact the stormwater system or surrounding waterways.

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