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The intermittent and uncertain supply of water in Australia has led individuals and organisations to take an active interest in their water usage and the long-term sustainability of water supply. UNSW accepts its ongoing responsibility as an efficient water user and takes water conservation seriously in its day to day activities and in the planning of future developments on campus.

Good progress has been made to improve the efficiency of water usage at UNSW and the Energy and Water Strategy has been produced to provide a summary of recent and planned activities for the future.

Water is a key component of UNSW's
Environmental Management Plan.
See the EMP for a status report for 2017.

Water sources and use

Potable water

Since 2003, UNSW has instigated a range of water saving initiatives that have allowed UNSW to become water efficient and maintain water use levels despite a large increase in student numbers and total building area. In 2017, the total amount of potable water used on campus was 387 megalitres, representing 59% of the water used on campus.

Bore water

Where potable water is not required, UNSW is systematically replacing it with bore water. In addition to irrigation and toilet flushing, the applications of bore water have been extended to include reverse osmosis systems, process cooling, and heat dissipation in air-conditioning systems. In 2017, UNSW used 264 megalitres of bore water, representing 41% of total water use.

Water Usage 2016


UNSW uses a managed aquifer recharge process to mitigate the effects of the extraction of bore water from the Botany aquifer. Managed aquifer recharge is a significant area of research at UNSW, through the UNSW's Connected Waters Initiative. As a part of this initiative, the University has installed Sydney's largest percolation pit, capturing close to 70% of the stormwater runoff in the village green on Kensington Campus. Surface runoff that would normally flow out to sea is redirected into the percolation pit from where it can recharge the Botany aquifer.

Although this water is not directly used on the University's campuses, it replenishes the aquifer and therefore feeds UNSW's bore water system. This process enables UNSW to capture and return 160 megalitres of water to the aquifer per year, the equivalent of 64 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Ongoing water conservation

We actively investigate opportunities to reduce water use at UNSW. Initiatives include:

  • upgrading toilets and showers to incorporate high efficiency water-saving fixtures and fittings
  • planting drought-tolerant grasses and native plants
  • undertaking water consumption reviews of campus cooling towers to improve operational efficiency and reduce water wastage
  • incorporating bore water systems into all of our major building projects
  • and continuous monitoring of water use on our buildings and systems.

Progress in 2017

In the Tyree Energy Technologies Building, a heat recovery system was commissioned, using thermal energy from bore water to preheat and precool fresh air used across the building. The bore water tank maintains 19°C year-round, which means that, no matter what is happening with the weather, the system can reduce energy consumption and help keep indoor areas at a consistent temperature.

Bore water infrastructure continues to be extended throughout the main Kensington campus and from April 2017 included the new Biological Sciences building’s cooling towers and toilets. In general, all new buildings will have infrastructure to use bore water. For existing buildings, bore water is used in most major buildings on campus.