[ASC-media] Call for Mandating the Reuse of Recycled Water

Cathy Reade creade at squirrel.com.au
Sun Nov 16 19:33:29 EST 2003

17 November 2003

The Water Use and Reuse Divide -
Call for Mandating the Reuse of Recycled Water

Nearly 10% of Australia’s sewage effluent is now being recycled in one form
or another, and recycled water schemes have the potential to provide
significant economic, social and environmental benefits.

However, to help conserve our precious drinking water supplies for an
expanding population, greater attention should be given to using recycled
water to replace drinking water where drinking water standards were not
required, for example in industrial uses, toilet flushing, home gardening
and urban parks and sporting facilities.

This was the warning given by Dr John Radcliffe, Director of the ATSE Water
Recycling Project and Special Adviser to the Chief Executive of CSIRO in his
address “Water – Second/Third Time Around” at the annual symposium of the
Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE), “Water:
the Australian Dilemma”.

And an international water recycling specialist, Mr Paul Gagliardo, from the
Earth Tech Inc in the USA, (who was responsible for the Melbourne City water
recycling plan), has suggested governments consider mandating the use of
recycled water (see separate release).

“As the International Year of Freshwater draws to a close and Australian
governments consider the way forward on water management, water recycling is
being given added attention and broader consideration,” reported Dr

Over 200 participants heard that over the past decade, higher standards have
been imposed on waste management, including through Sewage Treatment Plants,
with greater attention being drawn to the impact of treated wastewater on
the environment.

“Recycling wastewaters for agricultural uses is one solution that has been
attractive as it can obviate the cost of installing expensive biological
nutrient removal facilities in treatment plants, as well as providing
additional water for agriculture and urban horticultural uses, like oval and
public park watering,” said Dr Radcliffe. “While good for new agricultural
and urban developments, up until recently, most of these schemes have not
actually replaced existing uses of valuable drinking water”.

“While annual water recycling in the States and Territories ranges from 5.2%
in the NT to 15.1% in SA, a number of cities are looking to as much as
trebling their recycling,” he said.

“The proportion of water that is recycled from wastewater treatment plants
in our capital cities is very limited, ranging from 0.1% in Hobart, to 11.1%
in Adelaide,” said Dr Racliffe.

He presented data showing recycled water use in Sydney was only 2.4%,
Melbourne 2%, Brisbane, 6% and Perth 3.3%.

“On the other hand, recycling of water from wastewater treatment plants is
widely used in rural Australia. Up to half of the output from treatment
plants in country areas was recycled, for example in inland New South Wales
and the small towns of South Australia,” he said.

“Current systems and new projects represent only a small proportion of the
potential for recycling of water, and it makes good environmental sense for
urban and rural Australia to do more, particularly to help ensure we make
better use our precious drinking water supplies”.

Dr Radcliffe’s current study for the ATSE will summarise water recycling
currently practiced and additional proposals being considered in Australia.

“The opportunities for water recycling are surprisingly broad, and include
land-based applications for amenity use and for commercial agriculture and
forestry; recycled water use in industry; reticulation in new housing
developments, adoption of on-site treatment plants as an alternative to
major infrastructure; and small scale plants in transportable containers,”
he said. “Stormwater and rainwater should also be better incorporated into
water use planning”.

“The recycling of water for human consumption is the most technically
demanding but is quite feasible,” reported Dr Radcliffe. “However, I would
suggest that the potential negative perceptions of wastewater make the use
of recycled water for drinking generally unacceptable, especially when a
failure in the system would surely undermine the public’s support for every
recycling scheme being developed or operating. This is too high a price to
pay,” he said.

“We should vigorously pursue the many other purposes for recycled water
supplies a second or even a third time around, and get them right” he

An international expert on water recycling, Mr Paula Gagliardo, Senior
Program Director at the Earth Tech Inc in the USA, called on governments to
lead by example in response to the need for more water recycling and use of
recycled water (see separate release).

“Technology development is key to the successful and safe implementation of
a water recycling program,” he said.  Mr Gagliardo developed the water
recycling plan for the City of Melbourne.

“New analytical methods are now able to identify contaminants at very low
levels.  New treatment technologies such as ozonation, membrane filtration,
UV and membrane bioreactors have been developed to produce water that meets
the ever more stringent water quality goals and regulations,” he said.

“We cannot wait to take action because we know that there will be new public
health risks uncovered in the future.  We must do the best with what we

“Government must play the lead role in bringing water recycling to the
marketplace.  For any significant action to take place there must be a
champion to take the risk and carry the ball to the goal line.  There are
quite a few opportunities that if seized can set the whole water recycling
program on the right track,” he said.

Examples highlighted by Mr Gagliardo include Parks Victoria, The Docklands
development, the Commonwealth Games development and the Melbourne Zoo.

“Encouraging and even mandating that new developments use recycled water is
a good policy decision for Australian governments to consider,” he said.

“Government can lead by developing mandatory reuse, or by modifying its own
assets to use recycled water, so that the recycling business can take root
and flourish,” he concluded.

For further information, additional press releases on other speakers, or to
organize interviews contact Cathy Reade, Media Liaison, ATSE, 0413 575 934.
More info is at www.atse.org.au

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