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A new micro water treatment plant has enabled the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens (NSW) to remove damaging iron from bore water, allowing it to be used to safely water over 20,000 plants.

The plant was purchased following a $30,000 grant from Hunter Water and will save the community at least 2.5 million litres of drinking water over the next 12 months.

The micro water treatment plant allows the Gardens to strip iron from the huge reserves of bore water located under the 140 hectare site, returning its pH to neutral, and making it safe for watering.

Naturally high levels of iron in the local bore water supplies was coating the botanic gardens’ plants, stunting their growth and starving them of nutrients. The gardens’ volunteer workforce had been left with little choice but to increase their use of drinking water for irrigation, a process that would have increased their annual water bill by $5,000.

The switch to potable water was seen by gardens’ management as a financial breaking point after several years of losses due to the removal of government grants, competition and rising costs.

Hunter Region Botanic Gardens Chairman Kevin Stokes said the micro water treatment plant had already reduced the site’s reliance on drinking water by a third and improved plant health.

“As a 100 percent volunteer run, not for profit organisation, any increase in our operating costs can be catastrophic.

“The bore water used for irrigating plants was inhibiting the plants from growing, leaving us with the difficult choice of turning to drinking water. The cost of using seven million litres annually of drinking water would undoubtedly have sent the Gardens into receivership, something we have been able to avoid thanks to the generosity of Hunter Water.

“Hunter Water’s grant for the micro treatment plant allows the Gardens to irrigate with an independent supply of water that is safe for the plants and allows us to control our water use and costs.

“Since installing the plant our drinking water use has dropped by 200,000 litres per month, saving us $5,000 and making our site more environmentally sustainable,” he said.

Hunter Water Managing Director Kim Wood said the Botanic Gardens is an important community asset and local tourist attraction that must be preserved.

“The Botanic Gardens celebrate their 30th anniversary next year and it’s vital for our community that it not be their last.

“Part of the gardens sits above the Tomago sandbeds, one of the region’s four key water supplies. The gardens help ensure that the aquifers below it are protected from contamination, in the process delivering to Hunter Water some of the most pure water located anywhere in Australia.

“The gardens also play a local conservation role by undertaking research and growing and safeguarding the seeds of rare and endangered plants.

“The gardens is also a local tourist site, delivering education programs for school children, nurturing rare and specialised theme gardens and providing a home for native wildlife including koalas, kangaroos,” he said.

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