Western Sydney is hot and is set to get hotter as green fields make way for new housing developments; exacerbating what scientists call the urban heat island effect.

 

Extreme heat causes major liveability and resilience problems with critical impacts for human health, infrastructure, emergency services and the natural environment.

 

Turn Down the Heat is a WSROC-led initiative that aims to tackle urban heat in Western Sydney by building a cross disciplinary network, and multi-sector strategy that works towards  a cooler, more liveable and resilient future.

 

Local governments are already working on a number of measures including: tree planting programs, community education, aerial heat mapping, sustainable development guidelines, and improving access to drinking water in public places. But this is just the start.

 

To really turn down the heat in Western Sydney, all levels of government, all industry sectors and all parts of the community must work together.

 

WSROC,and its partners (including Western Sydney University, the Greater Sydney Commisison, Resilient Sydney, NSW Health, Office of Environment and Heritage, and NSW Department of Planning) are currently working on a comprehensive urban heat strategy for Western Sydney.

 

If you would like to become involved please contact the WSROC Office on 02 9671 4333 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

 

About urban heat:

 

What is urban heat?

Cities create their own microclimates by influencing the surrounding atmosphere and interacting with climate processes. The most striking characteristic of an urban microclimate is the urban heat island (UHI) effect.

The UHI effect represents higher air temperatures in urban areas than those in surrounding non-urban areas. This is due to the tendency of urban surfaces to absorb and hold heat, in combination with a number of human activities (air-conditioning, transport etc.) which produce additional heat in a concentrated area.

In Sydney, morning summer surface temperatures in treeless urban areas are on average 12.8°C higher than vegetated non-urban areas (NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), 2015).

The land-use changes planned for Sydney to accommodate growing populations, jobs and housing demands have the potential to lead to further increases in urban temperatures.

Why is urban heat a problem?

Western Sydney’s rising temperatures have an adverse effect on the region’s public health, air quality and energy use, as well as increasing the frequency and intensity of ground level ozone and smog, putting children and the elderly at risk.

Extreme heat is the number one natural killer in Australia - Heatwaves have killed more Australians than all other natural hazards combined.

For more information visit the Climate Council website.

Why is urban heat an issue for Western Sydney?

The urban heat island effect is especially striking in Western Sydney. Its unique geography and lack of sea-breeze means that the region experiences more days over 35ᵒC than the eastern Sydney suburbs.

The greatest increase in the near future is projected for Western Sydney, with an additional five–10 hot days by 2030.

NSW OEH predicts that the converting of areas in the north-west and south-west of Sydney from forest and grasslands to new urban development may double the projected temperature increases from climate change in the near future.

What can be done about it?

Urban heat is a complex issue which reaches every level of government, every industry, and every part of our community.

We must all work together to prevent increases in urban heat in the long term, and ensure that our communities are ready to cope with extreme heat events in the short term.

Some examples of short and long term measures include:


Long term:

  • Increase urban green cover (plants and trees) is one of the most effective and natural ways to tackle extreme heat effects. Increasing natural shade will cool the suburbs and generate breezes, with positive flow-on effects for internal environments.
  • Emplace heat-safe planning measures for new developments.
  • Protect urban green space.
  • Improve the reliability and affordability of energy with priority for vulnerable communties - very young, elderly, ill and low income.
  • Heat-proof our city's infrastructure including energy, transport and roads.

Short term:
  • Educate the community about the health impacts of heat including how to stay cool, and look after family, friends, neighbours and pets on hot days.
  • Ensuring our emergency services and health system are resourced to cope with increased incidents on extreme heat days.
  • Promoting heat refuges where people can go to gain respite - such as shopping centres, libraries and picture theatres.
  • Ensuring access to water in public places.

What is the role of government?

Urban heat is an issue that must be addressed by all levels of government, private industry and the community. The development of Western Sydney is not controlled by any one entity. State and federal governments, private developers, local councils and individuals will all play a part in shaping the future of Western Sydney.

Local councils are responsible for maintaining greenspaces, planting street trees and local development controls.

The NSW Governemtn has a role to play developing strategic planning controls that mandate good design from the highest level.

While councils can implement strategies at the local level, both state and federal government need to come to the table if we are to see a regional approach to urban heat.

What can individuals do to reduce urban heat?

While urban heat is a large-scale issue, everyone can contribute to a cooler city and reduce their home energy bills in the process.

Below is a list of measures you can take in your own home:

  • Insulate your home, especially the roof.

  • Install block out curtains and blinds and use external awnings on west facing windows.

  • Plant trees for shade and replace hard surfaces with lawn or gardens.

  • Where possible, use light coloured building materials to reflect heat.

  • Turn fans on for cooling first and set air conditioners to 24-25˚C in summer - every extra degree of cooling uses around 10 per cent more energy.


Additional information can be found via the below links:

How can I stay safe on extreme heat days?

Drink plenty of water
  • Drink plenty of water even if you do not feel thirsty.
  • Avoid alcoholic, hot or sugary drinks including tea and coffee (they can make dehydration worse).

Keep cool
  • Wear light coloured, loose fitting clothes made from natural fibres like cotton.
  • Taking a cool shower or bath.
  • Put wet towels or cool packs on your arms or neck or put your feet in cool water.
  • Visit an air conditioned space such as shopping centre, library or cinema.
  • Minimise physical activity.

Check on others who may be vulnerable to heat, including pets
  • Encourage them to drink.
  • Help them to find the coolest room in the house or consider taking them to a cool place (e.g. shopping centre, library or cinema).
  • Take particular care to keep children cool and get them to drink lots as they won’t often do this by themselves.

Stay out of the sun
  • Plan your day around the heat – avoid being outdoors between 11am and 5pm.
  • If you must go outside, apply sunscreen, wear a hat.

Have a plan
  • Know who to call if you need help.
  • Follow your doctor’s advice if you have any medical conditions.
  • If you feel unwell, seek medical advice from your doctor or nearest hospital.
  • Know where to find your emergency kit in case of a power failure.

Keep your food safe
  • Make sure food that needs refrigeration is properly stored (the temperature in the fridge should be between 0°C and 5°C).
  • Defrost foods in the fridge, not on the kitchen bench. 

For more information visit NSW Health's Beat The Heat web page.

Further information

The links below offer further information on urban heat, including some of the initiatives currently underway in Western Sydney.


Projects:

The Cool Streets (Blacktown City Council)

The project, undertaken in late 2015 and early 2016 was designed to empower residents to take the lead in deciding on the layout and type of trees on their street, with a specific focus on improving environmental outcomes and neighbourhood climate resilience.

Cooling the City Strategy (Penrith City Council) 
The Cooling the City Strategy is designed to make Penrith a better place to live, by addressing the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect.

Cool Parramatta (City of Parramatta Council)  

Summer in Parramatta can get hot. This can be bad for health and bad for productivity. This website provides the tools you’ll need to keep cool this summer.

Where should all the trees go? An analysis of urban canopy cover in Australia (202020 Vision) 

This report provides is a starting point for councils, developers and decision makers to better understand the existing tree canopy in their local areas and guidance on how to measure it.

Climate adapted people shelters (CAPS) project (U.lab)
The CAPS project seeks to reimagine current bus shelters to be smart and adapted to increasing urban heat in Western Sydney.

Guide to urban cooling strategies (Centre for Low Carbon Living) 

This document provides practical guidance for built environment professionals and regulatory agencies seeking to optimise development projects to moderate urban microclimates and mitigate urban heat island effects in major urban centres across a range of climates in Australia.

Beat the heat (NSW Health)
This website provides the community with information on how hot weather influences your health, how you can prepare for and stay healthy in the heat, how you can recognise and treat heat-related illness, and how you can care for people who are at risk of heat-related illness.

Further information:

Adapt NSW (NSW Office of Environment and Heritage)

Building cool cities for a hot climate (The Conversation)

Cooling the Commons (Western Sydney University, Institute for Culture and Society)

Adapting to urban heat (University of Technology Sydney)dapting to urban heat (University of Technology Sydney)

Cooling Western Sydney (Sydney Water, University of New South Wales)