Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

The Importance of the Water Supply Catchments

The Metropolitan Water Catchments are world class

The publicly-owned Woronora and Metropolitan Special areas extend from Campbelltown south to Robertson and cover more than 100,000 hectares. The Woronora catchment supplies water to southern Sydney, while the Metropolitan catchment meets the needs of the Macarthur and Illawarra regions. In total these Metropolitan catchments provide 20% of Sydney’s drinking water supply and all of Wollongong’s drinking water.

These catchments on the edge of the Illawarra Escarpment capture every possible storm event, and are our most reliable source of supply during drought times. The significance of these catchments will increase with climate change, as rainfall reliability will decline; so even a small reduction in catchment performance will be serious.

These pristine catchments are home to 40 threatened animals and 26 threatened plants, including the Spotted-tail Quoll and contain the largest koala population south of Sydney. They cradle significant rainforest and tall old growth forests, open treeless heaths, as well as nationally endangered upland swamps.

There are one hundred endangered upland swamps in the water supply catchments. They comprise the fountainheads of many streams in dry weather. These swamps are so often destroyed by longwall coal mining that scientists have described such mining as a 'key threatening process'.

These metropolitan catchments were recommended for World Heritage listing values in 1994 by the Royal Botanic Gardens as part of the Blue Mountains and surrounding plateaux. The continuity of wildlife habitats of this large area is unique on the NSW Coast. The only reason these precious catchments are not protected in nature reserves is the presence of extensive coal mining operations.