From a brickworks site and then a dump yard to the wetlands wonder it is today, Sydney Park’s transformation is a case study worthy of emulation.

Co-funded by the City of Sydney and the federal government, the multi-award winning water reuse project at Sydney Park was completed in October 2015. As part of rainwater harvesting, stormwater is captured and reused to top up the wetlands, irrigate the 44-hectare park and supply the neighbouring Council depot. By diverting, storing and treating the stormwater that would otherwise drain away, a new sustainable water supply is delivered to the wetlands in Sydney Park and potentially beyond to other water users across the local area.

A major source of clay in the 19th and 20th centuries, Sydney Park met the raw material requirements of a number of family-run brick, pottery and tile works in the area.

From the late 1940s to the 1980s, the former brick pits were used as a local tip with the site reduced to a wasteland without any wildlife or greenery.

Delivering the City’s largest water harvesting system, the $11.2 million water reuse project will see around 850 million litres of stormwater captured each year and cleaned for release downstream or potential reuse.

The project will help the City achieve their 2030 target to reduce sediments/nutrients from stormwater runoff and have 10 percent of water demand met through local water capture and reuse.

Sydney Park water reuse project

Key objectives of the Sydney Park water reuse project included diverting stormwater through underground pipes; filtering water through a pollutant trap and a series of bio-retention beds; revitalising the park’s wetland system to increase storage and improve water filtering; landscape improvement to create more recreation and play opportunities; connecting wetlands via a picturesque series of water cascades; improving the footpath network; installing new lighting, seating, and picnic areas; installing a dog water station to keep dogs away from the wetlands and give them somewhere to cool off; installing an artwork comprising of a series of elevated terracotta channels that reflect the site’s history and aerate and distribute water throughout the wetland system.

Sydney Park has four wetland areas, forming a major part of the park’s ecosystem while also playing an important role in flood mitigation. Prior to the water reuse project, these wetlands did not have a sustainable water supply, a situation that led to many problems including poor plant establishment, blue-green algae blooms, and rapid growth of unwanted, submerged aquatic plants, such as azolla, which block sunlight.

Stormwater treatment process

Stormwater has been diverted through a new underground pipe into the Sydney Park wetlands, from the stormwater channel near the corner of Euston and Sydney Park roads.

The water is treated using a pollution trap to remove litter, coarse sediment and organic matter from stormwater through a physical screen; a bio-retention system that collects water in shallow depressions and filters it through plant roots and soil; and additional filtration and UV cleansing processes as water is drawn from the system for reuse.

Wetlands attract native wildlife

Wetlands have an important role to play in the urban ecosystem: they clean stormwater, manage floods, reduce urban heat and also attract more wildlife, especially during dry periods thanks to the permanent water supply. The native grasses surrounding the wetlands are bio-retention swales, which help filter stormwater runoff and reduce contaminants flowing downstream into Botany Bay.

Today, Sydney Park hosts a variety of birds such as the black-winged stilt and the black-fronted dotterel, as well as black swans and Japanese migratory birds. Cladium planted densely in the middle of the wetlands is home to Australasian reed-warblers, superb fairy-wrens and other waterfowl. The wetlands are also attracting a growing number of frogs and eastern long-necked turtles.