Sydney Catchment Authority

SYDNEY CATCHMENT AUTHORITY is a small organisation with a big brief – manage and protect the drinking water catchments, as well as the dams and other water supply infrastructure to supply reliable, high quality raw water.

The SCA manages a network of 21 storage dams which hold more than 2.5 million megalitres. Its customers include Sydney Water and Shoalhaven and Wingecarribee councils, who together supply water to 4.5 million households, businesses and other users in Sydney and the Illawarra, Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands  and Shoalhaven Regions.

The SCA works in partnership with catchment communities and other agencies to manage and protect 16,000 square kilometres of drinking water catchments. The catchments stretch west through the Blue Mountains to the land surrounding Lithgow, and southwest past Goulburn to the headwaters of the Shoalhaven River near Cooma.


latest news

New water certificate a career stepping stone Oct 2013

A new partnership between the Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA) and TAFE NSW will soon allow HSC students from western Sydney to take part in a TAFE-delivered vocational education and training (TVET) course in water operations.
Thanks to the course, available next year, HSC students will be able to learn about water supply while they complete a Certificate II in Water Operations.

SCA Employment Program Coordinator Valerie Rhodes said the SCA worked extensively with Campbelltown TAFE to have the course, which was first developed on the north coast of NSW, delivered locally.

“The new TVET course, is designed for year 11 students and aims to help students build a foundation that will place them in good stead for a career in the water industry,” she said.

“Among other important skills, students will learn to perform and record water sampling results, locate, identify and protect utility services and to monitor, operate and control water treatment processes.”

The course is available for Year 11 Students to study as part of their HSC from next year and forms an important part of the SCA’s ongoing plan to manage existing and future workforce demands. 

Other key components of this plan include the SCA’s highly successful Graduate and Cadet programs.

The SCA currently has seven cadets as part of its workforce, while the SCA’S Graduate program has seen seven graduates join the ranks of the SCA. The SCA will soon be preparing for its 2014 intake of graduates.

Review of water operations in NSW announced Oct 2013

Katrina Hodgkinson, NSW Minister for Primary Industries, has issued a communique advising of a change in the CEO position at Sydney Catchment Authority and also a review of government-owned bulk water operations in NSW.

Ms Hodgkinson’s statement read:

“I wish to advise all employees that on Friday, 27 September, Ross Young finished up with the Sydney Catchment Authority.

“I thank Mr Young for his work during the past year and wish him well in future.

“Fiona Smith, current group general manager of operations, will act as chief executive officer while a search is undertaken.

“I also take this opportunity to advise staff that the State Government is conducting a review of government-owned bulk water operations in NSW.

“The review will be chaired by Terry Charlton, a former chief executive officer of Snowy Hydro, and it will advise the NSW Government on the optimal structure and governance arrangements for these operations.

“Mr Charlton will deliver an initial report to my office by the end of November.”

Science in the spotlight Apr 2013

With science playing such a central role in how the Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA) makes decisions relating to protecting water quality and quantity, the SCA hosted the inaugural science symposium in February to share its most recent scientific research and practices with others in the water industry.

The symposium ‘H20: Not such a simple equation’ provided the opportunity to discuss emerging issues in water management with over 50 key stakeholders and to showcase the science being undertaken by the SCA.

Special guest Rob Renner – Executive Director of the Water Research Foundation and prominent US water expert – lead the discussion outlining many challenges facing drinking water providers around the world. 

He highlighted rising prices of water, pathogen management, mining and coal seam gas extraction and heightened community expectations as some of the key issues which water authorities are dealing with.

SCA’s Chief Executive Ross Young agreed. “The delivery of the most basic of our needs, safe drinking water, is the result of many interactions and decisions in an environment becoming more complex by the day,” said Ross.

“In the SCA we rely on a team of eminent scientists to help us make those decisions to ensure we continue to provide high quality raw water for many years to come.”

At the symposium SCA scientists presented on topics ranging from onsite waste water systems and health based targets, to mining and coal seam gas. 

“We feel it is important to share the high quality scientific knowledge we have developed over the years,” said Ross.

Experience at the core of new SCA Board Feb 2013

The new Sydney Catchment Authority Board met for the first time on 14 December 2013, after the appointments were announced by NSW Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson on 3 December 2012.

The new Board includes members with extensive experience in key areas such as water management, sustainability, environmental management and planning.

The appointments to the Sydney Catchment Authority Board are:
  • Mark Bethwaite was Managing Director and CEO of Australian Business Limited and was previously an advisor for Deutsche Bank. He has held roles as Managing Director for a number of major resource companies and is a director of the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife. 
  • Dr Nicholas Brunton is Practice Leader for Environmental and Planning Law Group, Henry Davis York Lawyers Sydney. He is a Member of the Advisory Board for the Australian Centre for Climate Change and Environmental Law at the University of Sydney and has expertise in environmental risk management for large organisations and pollution management. 
  • Geoffrey Kettle is the Mayor of Goulburn Mulwaree Council and runs a newsagency in the catchment. He is Patron of the Goulburn Field Naturalist’s Society and has been a Councillor on Goulburn Mulwaree Council since 2009.
  • Carmel Krogh is the Director of Shoalhaven Water and has over 30 years’ experience as a professional in the water industry. She was previously Group General Manager Water and Waste at Eurobodalla Shire Council and an Infrastructure Advisor for AusAID.
  • Anissa Lawrence is the Director and founder of TierraMar, an environmental consultancy specialising in sustainable coastal and marine conservation and fisheries management solutions. She has held the roles of Acting Managing Director of Wetland Care Australia, CEO of OceanWatch Australia and Senior Environmental Risk Manager at Parsons Brinckerhoff.
  • Nigel Milan was the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Radio Network from 1995-1998 and Managing Director of SBS from 1998 until 2006. He was CEO of the Royal Flying Doctor Service from 2006 until 2010 and a Board Member of the Fred Hollows Foundation for 10 years, five of those years as Chair. He runs a beef cattle farm in the catchment (Wingecarribee).
  • John Macarthur-Stanham is Vice Chairman of Dairy Farmers Milk Co-operative and Vice Chairman of Trust Company Australia. He has extensive agricultural experience in the dairy and chicken industries and held a number of senior management positions with CSR.
Appointments of the Board members extend to November 2014. Robert Rollinson, the current chairman, is appointed May 2013 and is overseeing the transition to the new Board. Mr Rollinson is a highly qualified engineer and administrator with extensive private and public sector experience in infrastructure and utilities.

Warragamba Dam wall walk trial Feb 2013

Visitors to Warragamba Dam during the recent school holidays were once again able to walk along the wall of Sydney’s iconic Warragamba Dam as part of a public access trial conducted by the Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA).

Chief Executive of the SCA, Ross Young, said the access trial was part of a broader review to determine future public access to the dam.

“Warragamba Dam was closed to the public in 1998 when work began on a major upgrade,” Mr Young said.

“Since the grounds of the dam reopened to the public in 2009, about 100,000 people have visited Warragamba Dam each year and there has been considerable public interest in accessing the dam wall.”

Throughout the trial, which ended on Monday January 28, visitors to Warragamba Dam were allowed access to a portion of the dam wall and the Terrace Gardens downstream on weekends and public holidays.

 “During the trial the SCA conducted a survey of visitors to the dam and recorded visitor numbers and collected general feedback from visitors,” Mr Young continued.

“This information will feed into the review process and will help inform decisions about future access to these parts of the dam site.”

Mr Young said the review will be finalised in the coming months and will also consider operational requirements and feedback from the local community.

Wingecarribee Dam upgrade complete Nov 2012

Sydney Catchment Authority have made close to $12 million in improvements to the Wingecarribee Dam in the Southern Highlands of NSW over the past year, to ensure the dam meets the highest standards and will continue to be a reliable source of water.

“I am pleased to be able to announce the upgrade to Wingecarribee Dam we began in August last year is now complete, three months ahead of schedule,” Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA) Chief Executive Ross Young said.

“Wingecarribee Dam was designed and constructed in the 1970s and this upgrade has ensured the dam meets contemporary standards and will continue to serve the needs of the community for many years to come.”

Mr Young said the works were completed in two stages and involved upgrades to the dam wall and the installation of two new peat barriers.

“The stage one works involved trench excavation and backfilling along the length of the dam wall, with some construction on the northern side near the spillway,” Mr Young continued.

 “During the second stage, two new peat barriers were installed in the reservoir, including a primary floating barrier next to the peat, and a secondary barrier in front of the spill way.”

Wingecarribee Reservoir lost around 9,000 megalitres of storage capacity as a result of the inflow of peat from the Wingecarribee Swamp collapse in August 1998. The original storage capacity was 34,500 megalitres.

Water supply pipelines undergo upgrade Sep 2012

For the past three months, Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA) has partnered with Sydney Water and completed major works on the large pipelines and valves that distribute water from Warragamba Dam to Prospect Water Filtration Plant.
Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, said the maintenance work involved a series of large scale projects which were coordinated and delivered together to reduce the duration of work and costs to customers.
“The pipelines between Warragamba Dam and Prospect Reservoir form an essential part of the water supply network that provides over 80% of Sydney’s water to more than 3.3 million people,” she said.
“Over the past two months, pipes received an overhaul with valves being replaced, repairs to the internal lining and other upgrade work.”
Ms Hodgkinson said the works were completed in conjunction with the SCA’s annual pipeline maintenance program and involved shutting down both pipelines concurrently for the first time in over 20 years.
“By shutting down and dewatering both pipelines supplying Prospect at the same time, SCA staff were able to inspect and refurbish parts of the pipeline that aren’t normally accessible,” she said.
“This was made possible by the SCA’s investment in recent years in the construction of a $56 million raw water pumping station at Prospect.
 “The raw water pumping station gives the existing water supply system additional flexibility by providing a backup water supply source should supply from the other dams be interrupted, and allows the Warragamba pipelines to be taken out of service for maintenance.”
The Minister for Finance and Services, Greg Pearce, said five critical valves downstream of the Warragamba pipelines were replaced and refurbished as part of the project
“A $10 million program of works was completed for Sydney Water at Prospect Water Filtration Plant before the shutdown period to ensure the plant would be able to maintain Sydney’s supply without drawing on water from Warragamba,” he said.
“These works were successfully completed in partnership with Degrémont, the plant’s owner-operator, and helped ensure the reliability and performance of such a crucial part of our water supply system.”

Photographs by Adam Hollingworth, Copyright SCA.

New Leader for Sydney Catchment Authority Sep 2012

Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson today announced the appointment of Ross Young as the Chief Executive of the Sydney Catchment Authority.

“The Sydney Catchment Authority aims to ensure our valuable and healthy drinking water catchments and water supply infrastructure are maintained and I am confident Mr Young is the right person to take this role,” said Ms Hodgkinson.

“Mr Young brings 22 years of experience in the industry, including positions with Melbourne Water, Water Services Association of Australia and Water Australia with GHD.

“He is passionate about sustainable water management and that is what this State needs to ensure future water resources are protected.”

Ross Young will start in October and has signed a five year contract. He will replace Sarah Dinning who has been acting Chief Executive since the start of the year.

“I would like to thank Ms Dinning for her out standing contribution to the organisation,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

Warragamba Dam spills for first time in 14 years

Significant rainfall in the early months of this year saw Warragamba Dam fill and spill for the first time in 14 years in early March, with a second spill occurring shortly after in mid April.

Acting Chief Executive of the Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA) Sarah Dinning said the first spill lasted 22 days, during which a total of 633 gigalitres of water was released through the dams flood gates.

“Following heavy rainfall over the Warragamba catchment, the central drum gate of Warragamba Dam began to open automatically on Friday 2 March when the storage reached 80mm above full storage level for the first time since 1998,” she said.

 “The dam continued spilling until Saturday 24 March with subsequent rain causing a second, smaller spill to begin on Thursday 19 April.
“Before the drought it was not uncommon for Warragamba Dam to spill more than once a year, and since the dam was completed in 1960, it has spilled 52 times.”

Ms Dinning said that as per standard operating procedures, Lake Burragorang, which is formed by Warragamba Dam, was drawn down to slightly below full storage level following the spills.

“This draw down allows our staff to undertake routine post-flood maintenance and prevents the gates moving due to slight changes in water levels; due to wave action for example.

Ms Dinning said community interest in the spills resulted in a significant increase in visitation both to the SCA’s website and to the dam itself.
“We welcomed almost 200,000 visitors at Warragamba Dam and our viewing platform in the Warragamba township during the first spill, which is around twice our annual visitation in just a few weekends, ,” she concluded.

Images and footage of the dam spilling are available on the SCA website at

Environmental flows and fishways project wins engineering awards

The Sydney Catchment Authority won both the President’s Award and the Environment and Heritage Award at the Engineering Excellence Awards in Sydney in September.

The SCA jointly received the awards with partners SMEC Australia and Macmahon Contractors for the Nepean River Weirs Environmental Flows Release and Fish Passages Project.

This was the second time the project had been recognised after winning the Civil Contractors Federation Earth Award (NSW) earlier this year.

The project was a major part of the SCA’s $39 million program to deliver new environmental flows to the river and improve fish passage.

It involved modifying 10 weirs along the Nepean River to allow increased environmental flows to travel all the way downstream and new fishways were constructed to allow fish to move along the length of the river. 

Thirteen weirs have been built along the Hawkesbury-Nepean River over the past 100 years.  Of these, some had fish passages, but were poorly designed and did not allow fish to move along the length of the river.

The new fishways incorporated many years of research into the movement of riverine fish species and their need to move within rivers to maintain their distribution and abundance.

They have been designed for all fish species in the river across a wide range of river flows.

 New vertical-slot fishways have been constructed at 10 weirs along the Hawkesbury-Nepean River – at Camden, Sharpes, Cobbitty, Theresa Park, Mount Hunter, Menangle, Brownlow Hill, Wallacia, Penrith and Douglas Park.

Environmental release outlets were also constructed at eight of the 10 weir sites.

The new environmental flows and fishways now offer movement for all fish along a 90 kilometre length of the river, from Penrith to Maldon, near Picton, which was previously restricted by the weirs.

Work began on the project in 2009 and was completed in February 2011.

Positive results have already been recorded on the effectiveness of the new fishways, including electrofishing surveys, direct trapping of fishways and fitting fish with electronic tags to track their movements.

Results from fishway trapping at Penrith, Theresa Park and Douglas Park weirs have recorded 16 species using the fishways, including seven that migrate between fresh and saltwater rivers.

The fishways are being used by fish as small as 25-30mm in length, such as Australian Smelt and Cox’s Gudgeons, and larger fish like Australian Bass and Freshwater Mullet, which are between 60mm to 400mm long.

Long-finned eels that are 1200mm in length have also been using the fishways. The Department of Primary Industries are undertaking a four year fish sampling and evaluation program to measure the project’s long-term effectiveness. 

SCA to undertake $12M Wingecarribee Dam upgrade

The Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA) will begin work in August to improve Wingecarribee Dam, in the NSW Southern Highlands.
Wingecarribee Dam was designed and constructed in the early 1970s and is structurally sound under normal operating conditions, including drought and large storm events.

The project is being undertaken to ensure the dam meets the highest standards and continues to be a reliable source of water for the community for many years to come.

During the planning phase, a range of improvement options were considered, taking into account the unique characteristics of the dam, which includes a peat mass in the reservoir.

The project has been endorsed by the SCA Board and the NSW Dams Safety Committee.

The $12 million project will be done in two stages, beginning with the dam wall.

The RTA will carry out this part of the work, which will involve trench excavation and backfilling along the length of the dam wall to make it stronger. These works are expected to be complete by April 2012.

Dam safety and water quality and quantity in the reservoir will not be affected while the works are underway and routine daily inspections of the dam will continue during construction.

The second part of the project will start next year and these improvements will better contain the peat mass in the reservoir.

A new peat barrier will be installed in front of the dam’s spillway and the existing peat barrier fence in the reservoir will be upgraded.

These improvements are expected to be finished at the end of 2012.

The SCA had undertaken extensive consultation with the local community and Wingecarribee Shire Council about the project.

The SCA maintains 21 storage dams in five catchments covering about 16,000 square kilometres.

The catchments stretch from north of Lithgow and Blackheath, south to the Shoalhaven River near Cooma and from Woronora in the east to the Wollondilly River near Crookwell. 

The SCA provides high quality dam water to its customers, such as Sydney Water and Wingecarribee and Shoalhaven councils, who then treat and supply water to 4.5 million households, businesses and other users in Sydney, the Illawarra, Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven regions.