Raising the stakes on water reuse

OpEd – Russell Martin (Group Water Sector Lead, Wallbridge Gilbert Aztec (WGA))

It seems incongruous to be commenting on water shortages and drought when so many of the eastern states are suffering major flooding events. Most climate analysts predict that many parts of Australia will experience more severe and prolonged droughts and rainfall will generally be lower resulting in significant water scarcity. Coupled with the threat of drought, is the growing tension between population, energy, agricultural and environmental demand for the available water.

Many of the States and Territories have plans in place to address water security and climate resilience but the timing to implement various initiatives are often at the tail end, that is, 2050 of the current planning horizon. To avoid reactive solutions initiatives such as stormwater harvesting and water recycling need to be brought forward.

California have taken up the challenge of water security by investing USD $8 billion over three years to modernise water infrastructure and water management. Initiatives include recycling and reusing up to 1,000gl (two times the annual water consumption for Sydney) of treated wastewater, creating storages in aquifers for a further 5,000gl of stormwater and freeing up a further 600gl through more efficient use and water conservation measures.

Closer to home, WA is front footing water security and climate resilience by investing $320 million as part of the Stage 2 Beenyup groundwater replenishment scheme which utilises high quality recycled water to deliver 28gl of potable water (approximately 10% of current potable demand).

We have plenty of warning that future droughts will be more severe and prolonged. Therefore, to match the pace of climate change, scientists and engineers across the water sector must be smarter and move faster to develop new responses to improve water infrastructure and water security.

by Russell Martin (Group Water Sector Lead, Wallbridge Gilbert Aztec (WGA))

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