By Adam Lovell, Executive Director – Water Services Association of Australia

In September 2016 the Deloitte Access Economics report Economic and social value of improved water quality at Sydney’s coastal beaches was released at Bondi Beach.

It confirmed what we all knew: Australia’s liveable cities and beach lifestyle are iconic all over the world.

Twenty-five years on from the start of the Deepwater Ocean Outfall program, we have vastly cleaner beaches – but what is the social and economic value of that improvement? Sydney Water commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to investigate.

The report – the first of its kind in evaluating water’s contribution to Australia’s liveable cities – values Sydney’s beaches at around $1.3 billion per year.

A significant part of the economy, and of that, at least $94 million is attributable to water quality alone. As an island, Australia is fortunate to have an abundance of beaches, and having clean beaches is a priority for many.

The report shows a significant proportion of recent immigrants (11 per cent) specifically nominate clean beaches as a priority issue when they consider Sydney as a city to move to.

The same could probably be said for Perth, the Gold Coast, Torquay and Glenelg, in fact our whole coastline of beaches from Tasmania to Darwin.

If Australia is going to compete for talent and investment on a global scale, we need to create cities and places that people love to live in.

However, it’s not just those living near the beaches that love them – surprisingly, 60 per cent of beach non-users (people who had not visited a beach in the past 12 months) valued clean water and beaches simply because of the iconic value they provide to the city.

Tourism Australia’s research shows that Australia’s key tourism drawcards include beaches. Almost 70 per cent of international visitors make a visit to the beach, and beaches consistently rank first as one of the most appealing attractions in Australia.

Even more compelling is that good water quality and clean beaches, as demonstrated by the implementation of the Deepwater Ocean Outfalls program, enhances capital uplift of properties. Based on analysis, the Deloitte report shows that, on average, properties in suburbs close to the beach are valued at around $350,000 more.

Importantly, the report identifies opportunities for capital uplift for any improved waterway that connects people, provides green space amenity and beauty, and lifts the local economy.

Studies from around Australia show that improving bays, creeks (channelised to naturalised), rivers, and providing water to create green spaces, also leads to capital uplift.

It is clear from the evidence presented in the Deloitte report that clean waterways have multiple benefits: better health (physical and mental), increased capital value, increased profitability of local businesses, reinforced iconic value (even for non-users), and increased biodiversity of marine life.

This also aligns strongly with the Federal Government’s Smart Cities Plan, but highlights further areas for improvement.

While there has been a leap in improvement in water quality at our beaches, we still need better integration of stormwater management and improved coordination of infrastructure planning and delivery across the four essential services sectors of transport, energy, water and telecommunications.

Realising these improvements will only increase the value to our beaches and waterways, escalating our attractiveness in the international knowledge economy and increasing value of property.

Economic and social value of improved water quality at Sydney’s coastal beaches was commissioned by Sydney Water and released on 12 September 2016. It is available on Deloitte’s website.

Jessica Dickers is an experienced journalist, editor and content creator who is currently the Editor of Utility’s sister publication, Infrastructure. With a strong writing background, Jessica has experience in journalism, editing, print production, content marketing, event program creation, PR and editorial management. Her favourite part of her role as editor is collaborating with the sector to put together the best industry-leading content for the audience.

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