As our changing climate continues to increase the need for sustainable and weather-independent water sources, there are significant opportunities for Australia’s water industry to expand the use of treated wastewater.
While substituting recycled water for flushing toilets and irrigating gardens provides benefits to managing the country’s water supply, less than 20 per cent of Australia’s treated wastewater volume goes on to be repurposed.
One of Australia’s largest producers of recycled water supply, SA Water, has a goal of achieving a treated wastewater re-use of 50 per cent, which represents an environmentally beneficial opportunity to boost the state’s primary production sector and stimulate the South Australian economy.
With an extensive recycled water network already in place, SA Water currently re-uses around 32 per cent of total treated wastewater volume, with around two billion litres used to support parks and sporting facilities in the central Adelaide area, and even helping to grow bamboo supplies for Adelaide Zoo’s two pandas.
A significant volume goes towards primary production and farming purposes, with the remaining treated supply used in dual reticulation systems for residential developments in metropolitan suburbs like Mawson Lakes, Seaford and Bowden.
According to SA Water’s Manager of Business Development Michael Edgecombe, the once neglected use of recycled water in South Australia is becoming a more in-demand way to save water and money.
‘As extreme weather events continue to impact South Australia and other areas of Australia, we’ve seen firsthand how the attitude of businesses and the wider community is changing, with an increased awareness that water is a constrained, variable and finite resource,’ Edgecombe says.
‘More and more, people are recognising that a climate-independent source of water is a better alternative for irrigation and other non-drinking purposes, and helps to improve livability by greening public spaces, sporting ovals and community gardens in a water-efficient way.
‘This is demonstrated through SA Water’s Glenelg-to-Adelaide pipeline, which pipes a minimum of 1.3 billion litres of recycled supply from the Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plant to provide a lush, irrigated parklands area for South Australians to enjoy, while saving money on irrigation.
‘Beyond the economics, further investment in recycled water also leads to significant environmental benefits through reducing the flow and impacts of treated wastewater discharges out to sea, and relieving the water supply pressures on rivers and groundwater systems.’