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As climate change and population growth continue to put drinking water supplies under pressure, water utilities are exploring all options to ensure a secure and diverse water supply for generations to come.

In South East Queensland, the population is expected to grow by two million people over the next 25 years. Ensuring a plentiful, safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable water future for the communities in our service region is a big job – and one that will require multiple solutions.

Non-potable recycled water is one such solution. By increasing our use of recycled water for industry, agriculture and irrigation, we’re easing pressure on our drinking water supplies and reducing nutrients to waterways. Using recycled water can also help lower an organisation’s carbon footprint and achieve ESG objectives.

How recycled water works
Recycled water means turning wastewater into a non-potable but usable water product. This water can be used for irrigation, cooling or other uses that don’t involve consumption or contact.

Existing wastewater treatment plants can be upgraded to create recycled water. Plants that can create recycled water are known as Resource Recovery Centres (not to be confused with plants that can create Purified Recycled Water, which is suitable for drinking – those are known as Advanced Water Treatment Plants).

The process follows on from traditional wastewater treatment, which takes influent flow (the undiluted wastewater that flows to the treatment plant for processing) and processes it into effluent, which is normally released safely back to the environment. Resource recovery centres turn this effluent into recycled water via treatment, and export it to customers via a dedicated network of pipes.

How recycled water is used
Here’s a look at how much recycled water is produced at Resource Recovery Centres across Urban Utilities’ service regions of Brisbane, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim and Somerset.
FY22
• 8,877ML of recycled water (RW) was produced from 149,223ML of effluent, indicating that 5.94 per cent of the effluent was utilised as recycled water
FY23
• 10,443ML of RW was produced from 116,415ML of effluent, indicating that 8.97 per cent of the effluent was supplied as recycled water
• Out of 10,443ML, 35 per cent of RW was supplied for industrial purposes, 44.7 per cent was used for irrigating sporting fields and parks, and 19.6 per cent was used for agriculture and 0.7 per cent was used onsite for irrigation or other purposes

1 July to 31 December 2023
• 56,472ML of effluent was produced from 60,630ML of influent, out of which 3,856ML of RW was exported and supplied to various customers
• 31 per cent of RW was used for industrial purposes, 9 per cent was utilised for institutional purposes, and 41 per cent was used for irrigating parks and gardens. 0.8 per cent was used for site irrigation and other purposes

Who is using recycled water?
Recycled water can meet all kinds of industry, agriculture and irrigation needs. For example, Urban Utilities supplies recycled water to the Kilcoy Race Club to keep the track lush and green all year-round, no matter the rainfall.

The utility is also using recycled water for its own environmental initiatives. Urban Utilities has planted 1,600 native trees at the Helidon Wastewater Treatment Plant to create a new local koala habitat. The blue gum plantation is irrigated with recycled water.

At the Toogoolawah and Boonah Wastewater Treatment Plants, the utility is growing five hectares of vetiver grass and irrigating it with recycled water. The grass is regularly harvested and donated to farmers for use as livestock fodder. Urban Utilities has also supplied recycled water to Brisbane Airport Corporation to support the construction of Brisbane’s new runway, saving more than 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools of drinking water.

This sponsored editorial is brought to you by Urban Utilities, for more information on recycled water in South East Queensland, visit urbanutilities.com.au/business/business-services/recycled-water

Featured image/Urban Utilities

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