With a growing population, a changing climate and the desire to improve the liveability of South East Queensland front of mind, Unitywater has harnessed the power of science, technology and Mother Nature to implement key infrastructure projects that will help reduce the utility’s operating footprint. Unitywater Executive Manager Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions, Daniel Lambert, expands on some of the projects and key milestones that the water utility is delivering.
Mr Lambert said Unitywater is proud of its sustainability goals, pledging to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“In addition, we’re the first water utility in Australia to commit to zero nutrients diverted or offset from waterways by 2050,” Mr Lambert said.
Mr Lambert said that Unitywater was committed to sustainability while enhancing water and wastewater services for its communities.
“We are continuously looking for ways to reduce our operating footprint, use the natural environment to help us do our job and beneficially reuse water.”
A reliable water supply for Wamuran farmers
One of Unitywater’s flagship projects, the Wamuran Irrigation Scheme, will be complete and operational by mid-2024 and will provide year round water security for farmers to cultivate thousands of hectares of land while sustainably recycling water from the Caboolture South Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Mr Lambert praised the progress made in the past 12 months and said that in 2023, additional pipe will be installed with more than 1.7km drilled underground using horizontal directional drilling (HDD).
“In its first stages the scheme will deliver about 2.6GL of recycled water each year – the equivalent of 1051 Olympic swimming pools. We’re installing 17km of new pipe, which will connect to an existing 5km section that was completed as part of early project works,” Mr Lambert said.
Once completed, the 22km pipeline will supply Class A recycled water to farms in the Wamuran region.
“As the Moreton Bay region continues to grow and we produce higher volumes of recycled water, we will be able to connect additional customers to the scheme.” The scheme will divert recycled water from the Caboolture River, preventing 11t of nitrogen and 1.8t of phosphorus from entering the waterway.”
Environmental restoration in progress in Caboolture
Mr Lambert said he was looking forward to the recently announced $8 million Caboolture River Nutrient Offset Project coming to life.
“It will see 30,000 seedlings planted, 1.6t of nutrients offset per year, and 34t of carbon offset per year from our Burpengary East Wastewater Treatment Plant,” Mr Lambert said.
“The massive forecast population growth in the area will put pressure on the environment and on wastewater infrastructure and this project will provide offsets for the equivalent of an additional load on the treatment plant of 5,500 people.
“Unitywater is committed to working closely with community, First Nations groups and stakeholders and assessing each of our projects from a community, environmental and economic perspective.
“This project will remediate 2.4km of eroding riverbank and is set to be one of Australia’s largest nutrient offsetting river rehabilitation projects in an estuarine environment, increasing biodiversity and fish habitat in the process.”
Yandina Creek Wetland – a green engineering solution
Mr Lambert said another of Unitywater’s projects, Yandina Creek Wetland, helped improve water quality while being an environmental attraction for the community.
“Yandina Creek Wetland is on former cane farming land that we’ve restored to a wetland.
“It removes nutrients and sediments from the river, improving water quality and overall river health. In 2020 we constructed a walkway and bird viewing hide for the community to come and enjoy this beautiful site.
“This project helps offset the nutrients discharged to the Maroochy River following treatment of the local community’s wastewater.”
Oyster farms to improve water quality
Mr Lambert said Unitywater wasn’t afraid to innovate and was currently working to progress an Oyster Reef Restoration project where oysters will ‘clean’ waterways and improve water quality by absorbing nitrogen.
“We are working with our partners to begin a five-year trial, which will help achieve significant nutrient offset targets ahead of schedule.”
Total water cycle management through ‘water matters’
In a bid to ensure a healthier, more liveable future in South East Queensland, Unitywater is preparing its total water cycle management plan, Water Matters, with its partners and covering key waterways in the Noosa and Sunshine Coast regions.
“Water Matters is part of our strategic planning for a future with further climate variability affected by increased severity and frequency of floods and rising sea levels,” Mr Lambert said.
“This plan focuses on four major waterways including Northern Pumicestone Passage, Mooloolah River, Maroochy River and Burgess Creek in Noosa, exploring options for potable water, recycled water, storm water run-off and natural waterways.
“We are committed to adaptive infrastructure planning to support the needs of our communities and ensure we’re providing reliable and sustainable water and wastewater services.”