Clean beaches have provided $2 billion in social value for Sydneysiders

Thursday, 15 September, 2016

Clean beaches have provided $2 billion in social value for Sydneysiders

Remember the days when there was a brown scum around Malabar? That’s now a distant memory thanks to Sydney’s Deepwater Ocean Outfalls program introduced 25 years ago.

This week at Bondi Beach, NSW Minister for Lands and Water Niall Blair launched a Deloitte Access Economics report on Sydney Water’s Deep Ocean Outfalls that has found it has provided $2 billion in social value to residents in Sydney.

Commissioned by Sydney Water to mark the 25th year of operation of the Deep Ocean Outfalls at North Head, Bondi and Malabar, the report assessed both the economic and social value generated from improvements in water quality as a result of the outfalls. It looked at a number of different benefits including the value for Sydney residents, tourism and business contribution, health benefits, biodiversity benefits and contributions to Sydney’s iconic brand.

The main findings of the report include:

  • The Deepwater Ocean Outfall program delivered by Sydney Water 25 years ago has provided $2 billion of social value to Sydney residents attributed to the improved coastal beach water quality.
  • The total value of Sydney’s coastal beaches to its residents is around $1.3 billion per annum, of which $130 million is attributable to water quality.
  • The net value add associated with beach water quality is worth around $332 million per year to the NSW economy through domestic and international tourism and the provision of 3500 jobs.
  • The health benefits associated with beach water quality due to the avoidance of illness of beach users is estimated at $140 million per year from avoided absenteeism, calculated from an estimated 180,000 sick days saved per year.
  • In terms of biodiversity, the study suggests that changes in wastewater management, including the establishment of the Deep Ocean Outfall Program, has had a net positive impact on the biodiversity of marine communities along Sydney’s coastline, although this is difficult to quantify.
  • In terms of brand value, the study found that beaches ranked in the top three when visitors think of Sydney — alongside Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Opera House.

Malabar Offshore — pre-outfall with visible effluent plume (left) and post-outfall (right).

Minister Blair said the NSW Government’s commitment to improving coastal beach water quality through this program has ensured Sydney’s beaches are now some of the cleanest and most iconic in the world.

“The three deep ocean outfalls at North Head, Malabar and Bondi were amongst Sydney’s finest engineering feats at the time and we are now enjoying the legacy of much cleaner beaches and a number of significant economic benefits thanks to this innovative project,” Blair said.

Deloitte Access Economics Partner John O’Mahony said this first time research carried out has provided interesting economic insights into the social value of infrastructure projects.

“For the first time we have been able to quantify the significant economic dividend for Sydney from a project such as the Deep Ocean Outfalls and attribute a dollar value to the tourism, health and social benefits for Sydney as a leading global city.”

The NSW Government is committed to protecting and enhancing the environment, with a further $230 million investment into upgrade projects already underway at Malabar, North Head and Bondi Wastewater Treatment Plants.

The ‘Economic and Social Value of Improved Water Quality’ research project was carried out by Deloitte Access Economics over six months, using economic and tourism modelling, the results from 845 surveys and interviews with experts from Sydney Water, NSW Health, Surf Life Saving NSW and Tourism Australia.

For more information on this project and the Deep Ocean Outfalls, please visit

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