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City of Sydney partners with Sydney Water to supply recycled water and progress vision for harbour swimming

The Council built the footprint, ghost or echo of a harbour pool at Pirrama park. Photo: Paul Patterson, City of Sydney.


City of Sydney has partnered with Sydney Water on an expression of interest to engage private recycled water operators across the city to supply recycled water to city buildings and parks.

This partnership will help the City focus on the long-held vision for a clean and swimmable Sydney Harbour.

“This new approach will be critical to strengthen Sydney’s position as a leading waterwise city and also to protect and clean up our Sydney Harbour,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said in a Lord Mayoral Minute last month.

“Our industrial past has left us with an unwanted legacy of pollution and contamination, the focus on water recycling and stormwater management is a key ingredient of improving the quality of water in our harbour.”

The possibility of swimming was future-proofed in the design and construction of Pirrama Park by the newly elected City of Sydney Council in 2005.

Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Scully said she has seen more than one brave swimmer emerge from the footprint, ghost or echo of a harbour pool built at Pirrama park.

Councillor Philip Thalis was involved with the project to build Pirrama Park and said that it effectively has an Olympic sized swimming pool under the lawn which takes all the water from the catchment and treats it to irrigate the park.

It takes the road run off and the runoff from the park and then treats it in the reed beds that run through the park so better-quality water then enters the harbour. The canopy building itself takes the roof water, treats it in a pit and flushes the toilet.

He said they could not officially make swimming available but created steps down to the harbour which has become a popular swimming spot.

Quality concerns

The state government does not currently monitor water quality in the harbour west of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Scully said the reintroduction of more harbour swimming in the western part of the harbour will depend on improving water quality, and more consistent and ongoing monitoring of the safety of the water quality is necessary to recognise what steps should be taken to see the quality improve.

The Millers Point Community Resident Action Group has been campaigning for a swimming hole at Barangaroo since February 2020.

“Public spaces, both parks and swimming opportunities, are more important than ever with the advent of COVID-19 and lockdowns,” Vice President of Millers Point Community Resident Action Group Yasmina Bonnet told City Hub.

“The Lord Mayoral Minute is a wonderful and significant step forward, taking a holistic look at the City of Sydney’s work on water quality and recycling across the City.

“We’d like to thank the Lord Mayor for her support on this important community initiative and for significantly laying the path for a whole of government approach to making Sydney Harbour safe for harbour swimming.

“Hopefully, one day soon we’ll be able to throw our towels over our shoulder and walk down to the harbour for a rejuvenating dip!” she said.

Council commends Sydney Water and its new managing director Roch Cheroux and his Executive Team for its focus on innovation, sustainability and liveability.

The Lord Mayor said she is pleased to see the City’s relationship with Sydney Water improve.

The Lord Mayor will open the Sydney Water Innovation Festival this month, which is intended to bring together water industry, research and academia, key private sector stakeholders, the Indigenous and wider community to showcase leading-edge innovation, and address key water management challenges.

The Expression of Interest is to be released to the market this month engaging private recycled water operators across the city and how they might supply recycled water to city buildings and parks.

The Lord Mayor was requested to write to the Premier to advocate for a whole of government approach to making swimming possible in iconic parts of Sydney Harbour.

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