Ten steps to a living river

It may not come as a surprise that to achieve a swimmable Parramatta River by 2025 requires extensive planning, collaboration and resourcing. As a result, we’ve developed a ten-step Masterplan to help see our mission through.

Our ten-step Masterplan has been designed based on scientific studies and community consultation, so the more you tell us, the better it gets.

The Parramatta River belongs to all of us and we want a plan that reflects that. We would love to hear your ideas for how we can work together to make the Parramatta River a living river for everyone to enjoy. Click here to have your say.


  1. Read about our Ten Steps to a Living River below or watch our video.
  2. Download our Masterplan Summary Brochure.
  3. Read the Masterplan Report and learn more about the three new swimming sites.


Ten steps to a living river

1. Get swimming

Right now there are four places you can swim in the river. The more we swim in them, the more others will join us and community support will grow. And the more we can learn what makes a swimming place great, and what people want out of future swimming spots.


2. Keep watch

A Riverwatch water monitoring program will help us measure change over time, protect existing swimming spots, open new swimming sites and understand what makes water quality change over time.


3. Create new swimming spots

Our goal is to create three new swimming spots by 2025. Doing this means working out all potential options, then choosing the best three based on feasibility, vulnerability and desirability. We’ve already looked at 12 potential new spots and proposed different ways of using each, based on scientific assessment and community input.


4. Standardise the standards

The Parramatta River’s catchment spans 11 local council areas. To create a swimmable river, we need to work together to standardise policies and practices that impact water quality, such as approaches to baseline measurements, installation of rainwater tanks, creation of rain gardens and so on.


5. Reduce stormwater runoff

Stormwater runoff – and all the rubbish and other pollution it brings with it – is one of the number one ways our river gets dirty. A catchment-wide approach to reducing this stormwater through water sensitive design, which absorbs rain where it lands, will improve water quality.


6. Improve overflows

Sydney’s sewer system is over 100 years old, and was built for a smaller city. So, when it rains, stormwater can flow into and overload the wastewater system, causing it to overflow into our creeks and rivers. Understanding where, when and how this happens and putting measures in place to stop it, is an essential part of making our river swimmable again.


7. Involve the community

In the most part, stormwater pollution comes from street runoff. And that is determined by the actions of the community living in the catchment area. Good management of building sites, picking up your dog’s droppings and not littering are just three ways community can help create a swimmable river. Helping people understand this link is a key to success.


8. Bring in nature

A living river needs people, fish, birds, bats, frogs, turtles, grasses, trees and many more to be a complete ecosystem. By maintaining and improving habitats for our iconic species – especially our five mascots – we can bring nature back to the river. Doing so means understanding current habitat health, establishing foreshore improvement programs and calling on citizen scientists to help track progress.


9. Report back regularly

Regular monitoring and reporting not only shows us if we’re winning, it helps keep our river in the mind of everyone involved and reminds them that this is a long-term project that is worth investing in.



10. Create clear leadership

A big project needs clear leadership. The plan to make the river swimmable again is sponsored by 11 councils and three state government agencies and supported by many more. It also draws on community collaboration and Aboriginal wisdom to bring a big mix of experience and opinions to the table. Sydney Water has been identified as the best organisation to lead this alliance, via a defined governance structure that sets and delivers on clear targets.