As the country works to meet renewable energy targets, recycled water has an important role to play, both in the generation of this energy and in ensuring that the burden of the transition to net zero is not placed on drinking water reserves.

Renewables will soon replace non-renewables as the main energy source for our homes, businesses and communities, helping us fight climate change and create a more sustainable future. But there is one thing we often forget when we discuss renewable energy: our most precious natural resource.

Water is not only essential for life but also vital for many forms of renewable energy production, often in significant volumes. With water security and water stewardship becoming increasingly pressing issues right across the country, questions are being raised about how energy production may impact our waterways and drinking water stores.

Urban Utilities is the primary provider of drinking and recycled water in South East Queensland, a region all too familiar with water scarcity after the Millennium Drought. Recycled water is highly treated wastewater that is safe and reliable for various commercial, agricultural, and industrial purposes and processes.

Most importantly, it can also be used to produce green energy without affecting drinking water reserves. General Manager Water Ventures at Urban Utilities, Matt Magee, is a leading industry advocate for using recycled water to enhance renewable energy production.

“Over the past couple of years, I have been doing a lot of work with companies that are looking to improve the sustainability of their water use, and at the same time working with various stakeholders to enable green economic development, in particular through green energy production,” Mr Magee said.

“The overwhelming majority of our key commercial customers now have explicit water stewardship goals in their corporate targets, some of which are also reflected in debt covenants or end-product sustainability standards.”

A recent Urban Utilities study has reported a strong demand for recycled water from traditional industries, as well as new industries such as green hydrogen – a demand that will likely triple by the time Brisbane hosts the Olympics in 2032.

They are currently engaging with existing businesses and emerging renewable energy producers to identify and meet their evolving water needs. Many are surprised to discover the range and value of the utility’s recycled water solutions.

“As the world transitions to more sustainable sources of energy, and as climate change exacerbates drinking water scarcity, recycled water is emerging as a compelling solution to both challenges,” Mr Magee said. “Energy is only truly sustainable when the water used to produce it is too.

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