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Our heritage

Sydney has grown

From a small colony, to a global city of over five million people who all rely on water to survive and thrive in their growing city.


Before European settlement, Aboriginal people got their drinking water straight from natural sources like rivers, creeks and wetlands.

Since that time, Sydney has grown from a colonial settlement relying on the Tank Stream for its drinking water to a large city relying on a range of water supplies which all still rely on the natural environment.

In 1788, Captain Phillip chose the Tank Stream as the place to build the first settlement in Australia. This was because there was a deep harbour for boats and a fresh water stream to get water from. The small village of Sydney relied on the water from this stream as its main water source for the next 40 years.

Sydney Water was established in 1888 and helped Sydney grow from a small colony to a global city. Over time many buildings and structures were built to supply water and remove wastewater. Some are still used today, but many are now important heritage items. We have over 200 heritage items, including some sites that are open for people to visit. They’re a reminder of our history and how far we’ve come.

Find out more


In pictures

A black and white photo of Sydney water pipes being built.

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A black and white photo of a man laying down cement on a water pipe.

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A black and white photo of workers building the Tank Stream.

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A black and white photo of men working on building water pipes in Sydney's suburbs.

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