Sydney Water’s Upper South Creek Advanced Water Recycling Centre (AWRC) in the Western Parkland City will set the stage for a more sustainable approach to water management by producing recycled water, renewable energy and bio-resources at a single site.
Located between Kemps and South Creeks in the heart of the Aerotropolis, the largest growth area in New South Wales, the sophisticated centre will treat around 70ML of wastewater per day through a mix of biological treatment and reverse osmosis when operating at full capacity. The modular design of the AWRC will allow it to be developed in stages to meet the growing needs of the region, without requiring additional space.
Sydney Water’s Head of Western Sydney Development, Renee Ingram, said the AWRC will play a vital role enabling development, supporting growth, and creating sustainable communities in Sydney’s west. “The Western Parkland City presents a rare opportunity to design a liveable city that is also prosperous and sustainable, and water will be central to delivering that,” Ms Ingram said.
“By 2026 Sydney Water will have invested $3 billion in infrastructure across the Western Parkland City, leading the way for future growth and development. “At the heart of our work is the AWRC, which will use industry-leading water and resource recycling technology to generate an estimated $10 billion in social and economic benefits in Western Sydney. “The construction of the AWRC and pipelines will provide 400 construction jobs.”
While the AWRC will primarily treat wastewater from residents and businesses across the Aerotropolis, including the new Western Sydney International Airport, Sydney Water is exploring opportunities to supply high-quality recycled water for a wide range of non-drinking uses in homes, for industry and business, in agriculture and for greening public open spaces.
A cooler and greener western sydney with recycled water
Waterways in the Western Parkland City, like the Nepean River and South Creek, will come under increased pressure from climate change and the urbanisation of the region. Ms Ingram said the AWRC can provide innovative solutions to enable growth while maintaining the health of waterways across Western Sydney.
“We’re pleased that the AWRC will produce high-quality recycled water which can be discharged safely into waterways to maintain healthy flows, create cool and green vegetated corridors, and help regenerate the environment and protect the catchment.
“The recycled water can also be used by councils for irrigating street trees, greening open spaces and playing fields, and to generally help cool the city for its residents and visitors. “There is so much potential and we are talking to customers who want to take this recycled water for use in manufacturing, in place-making, or for agriculture,” Ms Ingram said.
Greater Sydney has a low level of rainfall-independent water supply, and future climate risks and extreme weather events may pose a challenge to traditional water supply approaches. “The AWRC will be Sydney Water’s largest investment in water resilience in a decade and will provide a secure source of rainfall-independent water for Western Sydney, reducing dependence on drinking water to achieve the cool and green aspirations we share for the region,” Ms Ingram said.
Unlocking a circular economy hub
In addition to providing recycled water services, the AWRC has the potential to activate a broader circular economy hub for water, waste and energy in the Western Parkland City with benefits for emissions, jobs and the wider economy. “Sydney Water is taking a bold new approach to managing organic waste from households and businesses,” Ms Ingram said.
“By harnessing the synergies between organic waste and wastewater processing, the AWRC will be able to divert food waste, fats, oils and greases from landfill and process them to create biogas and biosolids.”
Economic modelling commissioned by Sydney Water and completed by the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures revealed the direct and indirect economic benefits that can be unlocked by co-digesting wastewater and organic waste from Western Sydney at the AWRC.
“Every $1 million spent turning food waste into energy generates $2.67 million worth of value,” Ms Ingram said. “We can generate enough renewable electricity through biogas power to reduce cumulative emissions by 140,000 tonnes by 2036, as well as promote skills and create jobs in the state’s largest growth area.”
Co-digestion would generate enough electricity for 10,000–20,000 homes and save the AWRC between $6–13 million in energy costs by 2036, as well as produce $2.8 million of biosolids annually. Partnerships with major waste producers and councils could help unlock high-value and sustainable markets like bioenergy and liquid biofuel.
Sydney Water is engaging stakeholders and potential partners to explore the feasibility of an organic waste biorefinery as part of the circular economy hub. The AWRC is designated critical state significant infrastructure by the New South Wales Government and will be one of the first major projects in Australia to attain accreditation of the new rating system of the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia.
Construction and initial operation are being delivered by a consortium of John Holland, TRILITY, GHD and Jacobs. The centre is due to be operational in 2026.