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How do we create new markets, and expand current markets, for recycled water?

about 1 month ago
CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

We are working to become more climate resilient by reducing water use, increasing water recycling and developing new water sources.

One of the key alternative sources is recycled water from wastewater, which is treated to be ‘fit for purpose’ for its intended use, such irrigation of public open space or horticultural use.

We are interested to hear your ideas on how we can increase the use of recycled water, particularly through creating markets for the use of recycled water.
HBrookes 7 months ago
A market already exists but fundamentally recycled water can't compete with the fact that drinking water infrastructure is already there (or being constructed anyway) and with our current industry setup will always be sized as if no recycled water is available 'just in case'.
to make recycled water more attractive it has to be cheaper or easier than the alternative. The ways to do this are:
Make the drinking water alternative more expensive (a pretty unattractive solution)
Subsidise recycling infrastructure (not likely)
Or make recycling a necessary part of the wastewater disposal pathway as it is in rural towns without access to an ocean outfall (remind me again why we built another one at Alkimos?).
Ross George 8 months ago
Creating an efficient market for recycled water is no different from creating a market in any product. Characteristics often listed for a competitive market/industry are: numerous buyers and sellers; homogeneous products; consumers have perfect information about prices; and all entrants, both incumbent and potential, have equal access to resources. The question about expansion implies we may already have a market or markets. Discussion would be helped by some information and analysis of the current situation. What exists, their characteristics and how they stack up against these features? We currently have a monopoly supplier and capital cost is a major barrier to entry.
Analysis by City of Nedlands to take 1710ML/year (peak demand 9.7ML/day) from Subiaco WWTP (~16% of available) revealed a total capital cost $16M ± 30%; water costs were $0.5/KL (incl. capital cost) or $0.15/KL (capital excl.) compared with $0.05 - $1.10 for bore water and $2/KL potable. Who is going to provide this capital to enable access?
Moreover there is currently not the scarcity of alternatives that would provide the financial drive for this level of private investment even if the supplier was prepared to make the wastewater available with the certainty and safety required.
To change this, innovation is required to create a scarcity. For example, mandated targets, think renewable energy, or pricing nutrient (or other harmful contaminant) discharge. Supporting institutional arrangements would be needed to enable and regulate the market created – rights and responsibilities, standards, transparency, compliance and regulation. Do we have them? Who is responsible for correcting any damage resulting from the supply and use of recycled water under a market based system?
Some of this has been done in South Australia. See for example:
The level of investment by the SA government supported with Commonwealth water resources funding is $140M for infrastructure development. See: .This is driven by the need to claw back water for the MDB, very limited groundwater availability and potable water a $3.30/KL. Scarcity and need are higher there than here, but apparently not high enough to obviate the need for government investment. The social amenity provided by continued access to ‘fit for purpose’ passive and active public open spaces and restoring/ maintaining environmental values is used to justify this level of government investment. Perhaps we are getting close to that situation here.
Acwwa 9 months ago
The construction industry in Perth wastes and recycles no water onsite. It is rare to see recycled water onsite or for waste water to be recycled. For instance concrete trucks use thousands of litres per week that just hits the ground and contaminates soil. Concrete pumps and concrete each you hundreds of litres per day that is not collected or recycled . Incentives to use and recycle Construction wastewater should be put in place . High ph water from concrete washdown is detrimental to our water ways however nothing is being done to educate or police this matter .
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GDegebrodt 9 months ago
Absolutely true. Two major construction sites in the Pilbara did not use ANY recycled water despite availability and compliant water quality due to industrial relations problems - the construction crews refused to work with recycled water in road, concrete and bulk earthworks construction.
Could be a good target.
Martin 9 months ago
An ideal initial market in Perth for recycled wastewater could be irrigation of public open space by local governments where groundwater is declining or limits to abstraction have been reached. Investment could be made here even though costs may be higher than scheme water due to the public good outcomes. Sewer mining could be the source. There are over 60 licensed reuse schemes in country WA where lagoon wastewater is recycled onto parks and ovals and golf courses. The Pennant Hills golf course in Sydney is a good example of sewer mining for irrigation in an inner urban area.
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GDegebrodt 9 months ago
Completed a study in 2009 for Subiaco WWTP in which 'willingness to pay' for open space irrigation with recycled water was directly proportional to depth to groundwater. Recycled water was feasible when depth to groundwater approached 20m; which coincidentally is a similar limitation for irrigated agricultural project groundwater. So recycled water irrigation 'willingness to pay' in Perry Lakes (0-5m above water table) was almost nil whereas Mt Claremont, Floreat Wembley was about 50c/kL (up to 60m above water table). Private golf courses had better opportunities at cost recovery than POS. None of surveyed parties were willing to pay for infrastructure costs - only the water.
Did a prelim design for a sewer mining scheme in Wungong to irrigate POS; cost was deemed too high even though no groundwater was available for irrigation allocation. We liaised with Sydney Water on best practice infrastructure. Wungong is probably the most likely project to progress in Perth metro ...
GDegebrodt 9 months ago
When planning water supplies the fundamental rule is that water is generally free; it is the infrastructure and approvals that cost (abstraction of source, treatment, transport, treatment & reuse / discharge).
So when evaluating options for project water sources the cost preference, subject to scale & location, usually goes in order of fresh groundwater, surface water (dams) / brackish groundwater, reclaimed water (limited treatment), seawater desalination, recycled water and lastly managed aquifer recharged schemes. Interestingly these are inversely proportional to political interest.
I would like to see this question re-phrased: how can we better facilitate all fit-for-purpose water options and how to create a feasible market for water utilities to create economy of scale for non-potable water supplies?
I believe the largest impediment to better water use is lack of new water utilities to offer the water options in the non-urban sector (Peel Water is the only new player since legislative reform in 1995 and they are underpinned by an urban development).
KWRP has had feasibility issues since the closure of HIsmelt, the major consumer, in 2009. Port Hedland and Karratha wastewater is 100% recycled on public open spaces already; Onslow doesn't have sufficient flow for feasibility (all evaporated) except at Ashburton North camp.
However, there are great opportunities to service the Ashburton North and Anketell industrial areas, and West Pilbara agriculture with non-potable water supplies at 5-10 GL/a scale - not recycled but non-potable. The Wellington Dam project could achieve in this area ...
DoW is the regulator and shouldn't be driving the projects; Water Corp is licensed for water and wastewater operations, with facilitation of recycled water to third parties but not ownership. Recycled water schemes can currently only be operated by individual project ownership. Who should really be driving this sector?
Let's commence with some easier and more feasible strategies than only recycled water.

[PS I see the names in all these forums are well known to each other ... are we preaching to the converted?]
Craig M 9 months ago
Currently the economics of waste water recycling are challenging in most instances. A small to medium scale scheme that uses a process of biological nutrient reduction; filtration; and disinfection will typically cost $4/kL. This is typically competing with scheme water at $2/kL or bore water at a fraction of that price. Adding in trade waste charges at $2/kL to $3/kL improves the calculation but still leaves little to no money for payback on capital. Sorry to be negative! There are some operating schemes such as the Kwinana Water Recycling Plant. Can this be replicated at other industrial areas? Perhaps Port Hedland or Onslow?