Work is underway on a major recycled water scheme that will provide year-round water security to turf and crop farmers in Wamuran, South-East Queensland.

Unitywater, the water and sewerage services provider for this region, is building the scheme through the Wamuran Irrigation Scheme Joint Venture, made up of contractor Pensar and two local growers – Twin View Turf and Pinata Farms.

The project is the biggest in the utility’s history and is a win for the community and the environment. While farms will have access to a reliable water supply at the turn of a tap, the project also sustainably manages wastewater from the Caboolture South Sewage Treatment Plant (STP).

Development signals need for different solutions

With population growth expected to boom in the region, and the resulting higher wastewater volumes forecast to stress the receiving environment if not addressed, Unitywater had an opportunity to provide an alternative option to traditional advanced treatment or ocean outfall solutions.

Unitywater Executive Manager Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions, Daniel Lambert, said the predicted population growth was the catalyst for the scheme.

“Unitywater has been exploring the Wamuran Irrigation Scheme as a viable project for a number of years and we’re thrilled to see it coming to fruition,” Mr Lambert said. “It means we’re not constructing another steel and concrete plant, but an asset that benefits our growing communities and improves the water quality in our creeks and rivers which flow to Moreton Bay.

“It benefits local growers to improve crop yield and not rely so much on seasonal planning.” In its first stages the scheme will deliver about 2.6GL of recycled water each year – the equivalent of 1051 Olympic swimming pools – to five farming operations in the region. It will improve local water quality, diverting eleven tonnes of nitrogen and 1.8 tonnes of phosphorus away from the Caboolture River.

Mr Lambert said the scheme would provide tangible environmental, sustainability, economic and customer benefits. “Our focus with this project is three-fold: to keep waterways as healthy as possible, to sustainably manage water demand in the region and to provide water security for our customers – the farmers,” Mr Lambert said.

“This innovative scheme will keep our waterways as healthy as possible by significantly reducing that nutrient load on the river. The recycled water will help us to sustainably and cost effectively manage water demand and it will provide water security for turf and crop farmers in Wamuran.”

How the scheme works

Mr Lambert said the scheme would use a combination of upgrades to existing infrastructure and newly constructed assets. “Our contractor Abergeldie is delivering the new disinfection facility at the STP by converting and recommissioning the South Caboolture Water Reclamation Plant. These works are critical to the Wamuran Irrigation Scheme,” Mr Lambert said.

Pensar Managing Director, Karl Yunker, said Class A recycled water from the Caboolture South STP would be treated in a disinfection facility before being transferred via a 10km pipeline to Moodlu Quarry.

“Our focus with this project is three-fold: to keep waterways as healthy as possible, to sustainably manage water demand in the region and to provide water security for our customers – the farmers,” Daniel Lambert, Unitywater Executive Manager Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions

“The quarry acts as a storage tank and the water will pass through a water quality management facility when it arrives there,” Mr Yunker said.

“The benefit of using the old quarry is that the water can be stored there to meet seasonal demand. From the quarry, water will be delivered to farms through another 12km pipeline to be safely irrigated onto crops.”

A win for local farmers

Mr Lambert said the climate-independent irrigation was a win all-round. “At Unitywater, we’re committed to delivering sustainable services and initiatives that support our focus on the environment,” Mr Lambert said.

“The Wamuran Irrigation Scheme is an innovative way to manage our wastewater, protect our environment and waterways and help local growers improve their businesses with a reliable water supply.

“They will be able to expand their operations and have positive flow-on effects for the local community.” Pinata Farms Managing Director and third generation business owner, Gavin Scurr, said the scheme would significantly benefit the region.

“The Wamuran Irrigation Scheme provides water security, potential for greater crop production, and creates employment within the local region. The whole community benefits,” Mr Scurr said. Twin View Turf General Manager, Lawrence Stephenson, said the Wamuran Irrigation scheme was critical for water security in the region.

“It will allow growers to build strong businesses that aren’t vulnerable to changes in weather events and patterns, building a solid foundation for the future,” Mr Stephenson said.

“The region has a number of long term agribusinesses including avocado, pineapple, berry and turf producers planning sustainable futures that span the next 30 years. “The Wamuran Irrigation Scheme brings significant confidence to this local industry.”

Water quality assurance

Once the scheme is operational, and following a minimum 13-week water quality validation period, Unitywater must secure an approved Recycled Water Management Plan from Queensland Health and the Government’s Office of Water Supply Regulation.

“This approval will allow the scheme to safely supply Class A water to minimally processed food crops,” Mr Lambert said. “Different crops are irrigated differently and this approval considers all of that.

Prior to obtaining that approval, and to demonstrate that the water is safe and compliant with food crop requirements, the water will be provided to a turf farm.”

Mr Lambert said as the regional population grew, further stages of the scheme would follow. “As the region grows and we produce higher volumes of recycled water through our STP, we’ll be able to open up the scheme to additional customers in this area,” Mr Lambert said.

“We’re really excited to be progressing this project and remain committed to sustainable development in our region.” The first stage of the scheme is expected to be operational in mid-2024.

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