Wondering what the water pollution is like at your beach today?
Up until the early 1990s, the main source of pollution at Sydney's beaches was effluent discharged from the North Head, Bondi and Malabar wastewater treatment plants. These plants discharged approximately one billion litres of primary treated sewage to Sydney's coastal waters each day.
Between 1990 and 1992, deep ocean outfalls were built to discharge the sewage three to five kilometres off shore. Since then, the condition of Sydney's ocean beaches has improved dramatically.
Sewerage pollution was also a problem in other regions. To help reduce this, sewage treatment plants were upgraded, with an extended ocean outfall built in the Hunter region in the late 1990s and an increase in capacity of the Cronulla treatment plant in 2001.
Bundeena and Maianbar were connected to the Cronulla treatment plant, replacing the septic system, and a tertiary sewage treatment plant was built in the Illawarra region. Also, the near-shore outfall was replaced with a one kilometre outfall.
Further, in 2002 Sydney Water completed the transfer of Gerringong and Gerroa to the sewage system from septic tanks.
Compared to other countries, the water quality at Australian beaches is generally very good. Information collected by the Beachwatch Program over the last 22 years shows that Sydney's beaches are now safe for swimming most of the time.
However, there are other causes of water pollution that still need to be managed.