Time to set targets for WICA projects

Since the WIC Act was implemented, six recycled water projects have been approved in NSW. All are completed or close to completion, two are serving some 2,000 residential dwellings, and another has the ability to retail recycled water to hundreds more residential customers.

These benchmark residential projects are leading the way for another six or seven projects that will serve some 10,000 residential dwellings within the next 12 months.

With more than 770,000 homes planned for Sydney over the next 25 years and major new developments in the North West and South West Growth Centres – there are huge and immediate opportunities to recycle water at a residential level.

If water were recycled in all these homes, NSW could produce a whopping 64 GL a year of recycled water every year – that’s one sixth of the current national recycled water target of 30 per cent of Australia’s wastewater being recycling by 2015 (350GL).

At the moment Australia will fall short of this target by a massive ten per cent.

It’s time the NSW Government set targets to get more recycled water projects on the ground and tracked progress towards those targets.

With continued growth in this part of the water sector a recycled water target for residential use in NSW could be 100,000 dwellings committed by 2015.

In terms of recycled water volumes this represents a potential $2 B in investment in NSW, jobs, new innovation, and improved water management and sustainability. And 10 GL per year, or 2 per cent of the national target.

While it’s encouraging to see national targets set and progress towards recycled water – we need more projects, especially in the residential sector.

At the moment growth in recycled water is only predicted in the areas of environmental flows, municipal (industrial, commercial and retail), and indirect potable reuse – with just a tiny amount expected to come from residential. But residential offers the biggest opportunity for water recycling across Australia.

Clear targets and the enforcement of existing regulations will help realise these enormous opportunities in NSW.

Existing SEPPs already facilitate the provision of recycled water, such as the NW SW Growth Centres which outlines plans for 181,000 homes over the next 25 years. The NW & SW FC SEPP need to be strengthened and enforced so that viable private sector water recycling projects can have the regulatory support to be viable.

Recycled water targets also need to be included in current and future infrastructure strategies to ensure we are facilitating sustainable recycled water solutions.

Without tangible projects it will be impossible to meet any target for recycled water.

Terry Leckie is one of Australia’s leading water industry experts and a passionate advocate of water reform, championing key changes to legislation and regulation.

Terry is also Founder and CEO of Water Factory Company, Australia’s first private water utility which is creating affordable and sustainable smart water networks. More of his blogs can be found at Water Spectator.

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