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Advanced wastewater recycling set to bolster water security and circular economy in Sydney’s west

The sustainable development of Sydney's Western Parkland City is one step closer to reality, with Sydney Water awarding a contract to build one of the most advanced wastewater recycling facilities in the southern hemisphere to service the city’s burgeoning west. 

The contract to construct and operate the Upper South Creek Advanced Water Recycling Plant (AWRC) has been awarded to a consortium of leading firms, including John Holland, TRILITY, GHD, Jacobs and Tract.

Located between Kemps and South Creek, the AWRC will treat around 70 ML of wastewater per day when operating at full capacity and produce advanced recycled water to protect the environment and for sustainable non-potable reuse in homes, businesses and green spaces across western Sydney.

Sydney Water Head of Western Sydney Development Renee Ingram said the primary purpose of the AWRC will be to support the development of the Western Parkland City by providing first-class wastewater treatment services, but the facility is set to do much more.

“The purpose of this plant is to treat wastewater from the Western Sydney Aerotropolis around the new airport in the south-west growth area. But we’ve got a lot of big aspirations for this facility,” she said.

“It will enable us not only to provide wastewater services, but also provide large quantities of excellent quality recycled water for a range of reuse applications locally.”

Ingram said providing a secure water source independent of rainfall is incredibly important in terms of achieving the landscape-led vision of the Western Parkland City.

“We intend to ensure that the Western Parkland City is full of cool, blue-green spaces for the community to enjoy. And providing a secure, weather-proof supply of recycled water is how we intend to do that,” she said.

“It will help us maintain water in Western Sydney’s landscape, providing freshwater flows for the environment to protect the health and amenity of South Creek, and ensure Sydney’s west is a place people love to live.”

Bolstering the circular economy

Aside from providing recycled water for non-potable reuse and boosting water security, Sydney Water’s AWRC also presents a unique opportunity to activate a broader circular economy hub within western Sydney, Ingram said.

“There’s a range of really exciting opportunities that will arise through this facility. We see this as a flagship treatment plant, but we also as a circular economy precinct. It will provide the capacity to start doing things more sustainably,” she said.

Ingram said opportunities include energy generation and waste-to-energy applications, aside from the already planned processing of other organic wastes – such as food waste or fats, oils and greases – to create biogas and biosolids.

“We're investigating how we can use this plant as a catalyst for developing the circular economy. We are currently working on all the potential opportunities linked to this new facility,” she said.

“But having a circular economy hub in Sydney’s west will be hugely beneficial from a broader sustainability perspective.

“There is going to be huge growth in the Western Sydney Aerotropolis, and the plant’s location there is important in terms of minimising the cost of pumping, but also to ensure the benefits of the plant are felt locally, as well.”

While most water providers in Australia are not able to apply recycled water to potable reuse at present, regardless of the level of treatment, Ingram said advanced facilities like the AWRC would make recycled water for potable reuse an option in future.

“If we were to consider that as an option down the track, this is the type of facility that would be well placed to work towards that aim. For now, the water produced at the Advanced Water Recycling Centre will be appropriate for a huge range of non-potable water applications, from local irrigation to high-end industrial use,” she said.

Landscapes in mind

While the new plant will be key to facilitating the enormous amount of growth planned in western Sydney, the facility will also be a boon for the local environment, too.

“While plenty of other treatment plants in Australia are using reverse osmosis to produce advanced quality recycled water, many of these operations are producing it with a particular customer in mind,” Ingram said

“But producing advanced quality as part of the wastewater service is driven by our need to protect the environment, and then have the opportunity to provide this resource to communities and businesses in a really economical way. It’s important we are protecting any receiving environments, but we are also providing recycled water that is cost effective.”

The AWRC will produce advanced treated water up to 1.3x average dry weather flows, achieving a total nitrogen limit of < 0.35 ml/L and a total phosphorus limit of < 0.009 mg/L, which is very low for the purpose of protecting the Nepean River and South Creek.

And, with the Western Parkland City setting a vision for a landscape-led approach to every aspect of its development, Sydney Water will also be looking at ways to help manage the broader catchment.

“Approximately half of the 78-hectare site is within the floodplain, and we're looking at how we can regenerate that area as well, to provide catchment-level benefits,” Ingram said.

Leading the way

Given the scope of the world-class facility, it’s no wonder the consortium is large, too, with John Holland responsible for design and construction, GHD and Jacobs providing engineering and design services, TRILITY providing operations and maintenance advice as the project is delivered, and Tract offering guidance on landscape design.

 (From left) Trinity Managing Director, Francois Gouws with Sydney Water Managing Director, Roch Cheroux, and John Holland Chief Strategy Officer, Jayne Whitney.(From left) TRILITY Managing Director, Francois Gouws with Sydney Water Managing
Director, Roch Cheroux, and John Holland Chief Strategy Officer, Jayne Whitney.

John Holland General Manager of Water and Optimisation Margaret Riley said she’s thrilled to continue a long-term collaboration with Sydney Water alongside partners TRILITY, GHD and Jacobs.

“It’s exciting to launch a project with such industry leading circular economy ambitions and Sydney Water is to be congratulated on its vision,” she said. 

TRILITY Managing Director Francois Gouws echoes the sentiments of its joint venture partner.

“It’s a real privilege to be working in collaboration with Sydney Water and alongside our partners John Holland, GHD, and Jacobs on such an exciting project, and one with motivations to drive innovation and a circular economy,” he said.

The Upper South Creek AWRC is due to be operational in 2026.