Rous County Council wants purified recycled water to one day form part of drinking water supplies in New South Wales.
Unfortunately, the scheme currently faces plenty of planning, regulatory, public health, funding and other hurdles – not to mention securing community support and acceptance. Overcoming these barriers is why Rous County Council is proposing to invest around $10 million to pioneer the use of recycled water for drinking purposes by establishing a pilot plant and scheme in regional New South Wales.
Located in the Northern Rivers region, the council is the only multipurpose county council in New South Wales. Along with delivering weed biosecurity and flood mitigation services, Rous is the bulk water supply authority for the Ballina Shire, Byron Shire, Lismore City and Richmond Valley local government areas. It currently supplies, on average, 11,600 megalitres of water per year for a population of more than 120,000 across these four council areas. To do this, Rous’s existing regional supply primarily utilises three surface water sources: Rocky Creek Dam, Emigrant Creek Dam and the Wilsons River.
Water supply security challenges
‘Like most utilities across Australia, our regional water supply is facing a number of critical water security challenges,’ says Rous
County Council General Manager Phillip Rudd. By 2060, Rous is forecasting a 37 per cent increase in water demand due to population growth. At the same time, the amount of water its existing system can reliably supply is forecast to decline by almost 22 per cent due to changing climate conditions.
‘We know new water sources are required to meet our region’s long-term water needs. Otherwise, our community will be burdened with longer and more severe water restrictions.
‘Whether it’s indirect or direct potable re-use, we see purified recycled water as a key part of the solution… not just for our region, but [also] across New South Wales,’ Rudd says. Diversification is critical to meeting future water needs for the community, and means that all options, including purified recycled water, must be considered.