The goal of the Sydney Park Water Re-Use project was ambitious; to capture and clean 850 million litres of stormwater a year for recycling and reuse. The project scope was to retrofit Sydney Park to become a precinct scale stormwater harvesting asset, while maintaining and enhancing the park as a significant green open space for the inner-city.

“The project highlights the benefit of significant design team collaboration, successfully bringing together water sensitive urban design, new interconnecting civil infrastructure, environmental bio-retention and a local urban water re-use system.”
- Australian Urban Design Awards 2016. Jury Citation

Design Outcome

The project is an integral component of the City of Sydney’s Sustainable Sydney 2030; which aims to replace 30 per cent of 2030 potable water demand across the local government area. The equivalent of 340 Olympic-sized swimming pools is filtered and treated within the park.

The project’s success lies in its synthesis of the pragmatic and poetic design aspects of the water treatment system and its inventive integration with the park. Instead of constructing traditional grey water treatment systems, these were reconceived as a series of connected wetlands, cascades, spillways and sculptural elements. Storm water is fed into the naturalised system for filtration from a main drainage pipe which captures runoff from the adjacent suburb of Newtown. Footbridges, informal paths and stepping stones were designed around the waterbodies for people to explore and discover the various water treatment processes now part of the park’s landscape setting.

Native animal habitat was carefully considered and improved as part of the project. The wetlands have the highest population of native bird species in the local area, including 22 wetland species.

Design Process

The integration of public art as water infrastructure was an inherent part of the project. ‘Water Falls’ by artists Jennifer Turpin and Michaelie Crawford is comprised of elevated terracotta toughs that are suspended and fan out over the upper wetland to release, reticulate and aerate the water via cascades. The artists also developed a series of ‘exhaust fans’ that transfer water from the bioremediation ‘paddies’ to the lagoons.

The project was funded by the City of Sydney and built in partnership with the Australian Government through the National Urban Water and Desalination Plan. The design team incorporated multi-disciplinary specialists led by landscape architects Turf Design Studio and Environmental Partnership. Collaboration was central to the design process. “Turpin + Crawford Studio, David Knights (formerly Alluvium) and Mia Dalby-Ball (formerly Dragonfly Environmental) brought incredible verve, skill and openness of spirit to the project – their contribution cannot be underestimated. The City of Sydney also deserve special recognition for their curatorial rigour and commitment to quality on behalf of the community.” - Mike Horne. Project Director, Turf Design Studio.

An innovative green infrastructure project that fuses design, science, art and ecology - the City of Sydney’s largest environmental project to date.

Quick facts

Project type
Green Infrastructure – Storm water treatment and public park retrofit
Project scale
Design team
Landscape Architecture - Turf Design and Environmental Partnership
Water & Environment - Alluvium
Public Art - Turpin + Crawford Studio
Ecolog - Dragonfly Environmental
Structural Engineer - Partridge
Lighting and Electrical - Lighting Art and Science
Irrigation - HydroPlan
Soils - SESL Australia
Environmental Management - A.D. Envirotech Australia
Year completed
Inner city - St Peters NSW
Site area
Total - 44 hectares
Water reuse area - 1.6 hectares
Public, Local Government - City of Sydney
Design awards
2016 American Architecture Awards - Landscape Architecture of the Year
2016 Australian Urban Design Award - Delivered Outcome Large Scale
2016 Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences Design Award
2016 Australian Good Design Award
2016 NSW Landscape Architecture Award of Excellence - Parks and Open Space
2015 Sydney Design Awards - Gold Winner for Environmental Design