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With climate change, population growth, and industrial development placing pressure on our finite water supplies, the challenges water utilities face are growing more complex, and there has never been a more urgent time for innovative and sustainable solutions to manage our most precious resource. Recycling water is one of the key ways that utilities can keep up with this demand and minimise their impact on the environment.

Water is at the heart of our much-loved Aussie lifestyle – our quality of life, our jobs, our businesses, and our communities all depend on it and this resource is central to how our cities, towns, and regions grow and develop. Without the water cycle, there is no lifecycle. But when it comes to water management, are utilities security guards or stewards?

Security versus stewardship

Water security means protecting water resources proactively, and considering the political, economic and social factors – including the impact of climate change and population growth – that influence water availability and quality. It also means securing climate-independent sources of water and planning infrastructure and strategy around those factors.

Water stewardship, on the other hand, means managing water ethically and sustainably, and involves working with local communities, customers, and stakeholders to develop innovative ways to use water responsibly and beneficially for both the environment and communities. Urban Utilities’ focus is on both concepts side-by-side to ensure that water is protected and conserved for generations to come.

Recycled water: a smart and sustainable solution

One of the key elements of Urban Utilities’ roadmap to net zero by 2032 is recycled water – water that has been used once and then treated to remove contaminants, making it safe for reuse, rather than returning it to the environment.

Adding recycled water to the mix eases pressure on our drinking water supplies, reduces nutrients in waterways, and improves the well-being and liveability of communities. Recycling water can also reduce energy use, which leads to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Urban Utilities currently provides recycled water to hundreds of customers in its service region, mainly for agriculture and irrigation.

Among other things, the water is used to green sports fields, support farmers, revive country racetracks, and grow koala habitats. The utility also supplied recycled water to Brisbane Airport Corporation to support the construction of its second runway, saving more than 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools of drinking water in the process.

Embracing growth and opportunity

If water isn’t sustainable, industry isn’t sustainable. Over the past year, Urban Utilities has experienced rapid growth in demand for recycled water from industrial customers who are committed to sustainability and water stewardship.

Several major international companies have recently announced sustainability strategies that prioritise water stewardship, and this trend has been mirrored at the local level too.

Urban Utilities recently reached out to several of its biggest commercial water users to learn more about their sustainability goals, and was happy to hear that all of them have set sophisticated targets – with most having specific water stewardship goals.

The utility is thrilled to be an enabler of this important and rapid shift toward more environmentally responsible business practices. There are also some emerging green industry players who plan to use non-potable water sources to make eco-friendly products like cardboard pulp, green hydrogen, and concrete.

Urban Utilities currently recycles an average of around 10,000ML of water every year, but this output will likely need to increase to meet customers’ changing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) needs. Customers with a commitment to sustainability aren’t just setting the standard but shaping the future, and Urban Utilities aims to support them every step of the way.

Brisbane 2032 and beyond

Brisbane being announced as the Host City of the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games has also accelerated the pace of change in this service region. Brisbane is set to be the first climate-positive Olympic and Paralympic Games, and Urban Utilities is thrilled to be playing its part to ensure that large-scale, global events can be done sustainably.

The utility is excited to explore opportunities to design and build innovative and sustainable water and wastewater infrastructure for key precincts that will benefit the community long after the closing ceremony.

Despite the challenges ahead, Urban Utilities is determined to secure a diverse water supply for its customers and communities, including by looking into climate-independent water sources like desalination and purified recycled water, for both residential and industrial use.

As a water utility, Urban Utilities has an opportunity and a responsibility to pursue sustainable water solutions, and is excited to work with like minded industry partners and commercial customers to help them meet their ESG needs. After all, waste is only waste if it’s wasted!

This sponsored editorial is brought to you by Urban Utilities. Discover how Urban Utilities is moving beyond reuse and how recycled water can help you meet your ESG needs, by visiting urbanu.com.au/wvum.

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