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Water Recycling in Australia

For those seeking more detailed information on recycled water use in

Australia, particularly for agricultural and amenity uses.
Acknowledgements Disclaimer Copyright Protection.
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Program for Sustainable Irrigation which you relying on any information in this Printed and designed by Arris Pty Ltd.
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and adoption of sustainable irrigation
April 2006
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viable future (

Why recycle our water? 1

What is recycled water? 1

Australia’s water resources 2

Australia’s recycled water resources 2

What can recycled water be used for? 3

Recycled water for agriculture and amenity horticulture 3

The reclamation or treatment process 4

Guidelines and risk management 5

How do I know where recycled water is used? 5

What are the potential risks associated

with recycled water? 7

How safe is recycled water? 9

Is recycled water safe for use in agriculture? 9

Is recycled water safe for use around the home? 9

Is the person using recycled water safe? 10

Environmental allocation 10

Acceptance of recycled water use in

agriculture and amenity horticulture 11

Some important issues for the future 12

Summary 12

Examples of recycled water schemes in Australia 13

Glossary 15

Further information 16

Websites 16
How much
water do we
Australia’s total annual water use
adds up to about 26 000 gigalitres
(GL). This is about 1.3 million
litres per person per year (1.3
megalitres or ML).

Daily domestic water use

averages about 320 litres per
person (about two bathtubs full,
one for the house and one for the

Why recycle our What is recycled

water? water?
Recycling our water can offer Water recycling is a generic term Water recycling can include:
substantial benefits to our society for water reclamation and reuse,
• Recycling of wastewater from
including: where the resulting water is
previous uses. This generally
referred to as recycled water. This
• Reduction of nutrient and means the reclamation of
term will be used throughout
contaminant loads into water from domestic
this document, but you might
oceans and rivers sewage effluent or
also find a number of other terms
• Providing more drinking municipal wastewater. These
used in the water industry. These
quality water for domestic waters may be recycled from
uses by substituting drinking bathroom and laundry
quality water with recycled • Water reclamation effluents (grey water), from
water for irrigation of • Water recycling the entire domestic sewage
agricultural crops and amenity • Water reuse stream (black water) or from
horticulture • Wastewater municipal wastewater
• Reduced stress on the • Sewage effluent
• Recycling of water from
groundwater and rivers • Reclaimed water
agricultural and
by providing alternative • Grey water
industry wastewater
water supplies
Definitions for these and
Recycled water can be either or
There may also be benefits other terms can be found
both of the above waters. This
to agricultural and amenity in the glossary (page 15).
document refers specifically
enterprises through:
to the recycling of water from
• Guaranteed water supply and treated sewage effluents.
water quality
• Security for investment in
agricultural enterprises
• Recycling of valuable nutrients Figure 1
How Australia’s water
resources are used
(ABS 2004)
Australia’s water recycled water
resources resources
Water resource management One water resource that has About 12% of Australia’s water
poses significant ongoing been under-utilised in Australia is used for household and
challenges in Australia. Our is ‘treated’ sewage effluent manufacturing purposes (Figure
annual water use is approximately (commonly known as wastewater, 1) with a large percentage ending
1.3 million litres per person, the recycled water or reclaimed in the reticulated wastewater
third highest consumption rate in water). Currently, less than 10% stream. In total, some 2 000 GL
the world. The largest two uses of of this water resource is treated of this water is thought to be
water in Australia are agriculture and utilised with the remainder recoverable, but in 2002 less than
(67% or 16 700 GL, 2001-02) and being discharged at various 10% (167 GL) of the total output
domestic (i.e. households - 9% points in the environment. from sewage treatment plants
or 2 200 GL, 2001-02). Increasing However, there is growth in was recycled. There are significant
strain on our water resources has the use of recycled water for a differences in reuse between
resulted in a greater focus on the variety of purposes. Recycled states, with South Australia
efficient management of all water water provides benefits for the recycling greater than 15% of
sources in Australia. community and the environment its wastewater, but Victoria,
by increasing available water Australian Capital Territory and
Many capital cities in Australia resources and decreasing nutrient Northern Territory recycling less
estimate that in the future they and contaminant loads to surface than 10%. The cities of Perth,
will not have sufficient water and coastal waters. Melbourne and Canberra have
supplies to meet their growing targets of achieving 20% water
populations. We must also remember that all recycling within the next ten
water we use or reuse returns to years.
the environment to become part
of the natural water cycle through Some of the highest rates of
run off or drainage and ends up recycling water occur in regional
in the atmosphere, creeks, rivers, Australia, but volumes are
oceans, lakes, groundwater and relatively small. In many arid areas
other water reserves (Figure 2). of Australia the reliable supply
A lot of water also evaporates of wastewater is very attractive
and ends up as clouds, returning to irrigators. Many inland towns
to the land as rain, snow or ice have been supplying water to
(Figure 2). farmers for years, either formally
through reticulated systems,
or informally via downstream
extractions. For example, nearly
Figure 2 all small towns in WA and many
Typical water cycle (blue) including
throughout Australia recycle
recycled water (lilac) and sewage (black)
WTP = Drinking Water Treatment Plant
100% of their wastewater.
WWTP = Wastewater Treatment Plant

Recycled water
What can for agriculture
recycled water and amenity
be used for? horticulture
Recycled water can be used for Approximately 230 recycled
just about anything, as long as water schemes use recycled
it is treated to a level to make water in urban environments,
it fit for the intended purpose, while some 270 schemes are in
from a health and environmental agriculture. Agriculture uses the
perspective (Figure 3) . However, largest volume of recycled water
the cost of treatment may make accounting for 82% (423 GL) of
reclamation uneconomical for all recycled water used. Most
some uses. recycled water in agriculture is
used for pastures, dairy farming
Australia now has more than and horticulture (fruit, grapes and
580 different recycled water vegetables). Golf courses, sporting
schemes operating, which use grounds and parks are also a
approximately 167 GL/year. The significant user of recycled water,
bulk of these schemes involve: using approximately 33 GL. Urban
Urban environments gardens are a relatively small user
Households, golf courses and of recycled water.
recreational parks.
Annual water reuse from sewage Industry The required quality of the
treatment plants in Australia 2001-02 Washing and cooling in power recycled water will differ
stations and mills. depending on the crop being
State % GL irrigated or the use of the
Horticulture, forestry, pasture, amenities.
NT 5.5 1.1
flowers, viticulture and
ACT 5.6 1.7 sugar cane.

Tas 9.5 6.2

Other possible uses include:
WA 10.0 12.7 • Fire fighting
SA 15.1 15.2 • Groundwater recharge
• Municipal landscapes
Vic 6.7 30.1 • ‘Dual pipe’ urban uses
• Environmental flows and
Qld 11.2 38.0 wetlands
NSW 8.9 61.5 It is now also possible for
advanced treatment technology
AUST 9.1 166.5
to produce safe drinking
(Radcliffe 2004) (potable) water. In several
countries wastewater is recycled
for potable reuse via groundwater
injection (e.g. Factory 21, Orange
County, California, USA) or
where it is added directly to
surface reservoirs (e.g. NeWater,
Singapore). Such planned indirect
or direct potable reuse is not
currently practiced in Australia,
although it is being considered by
some councils with severe water
The reclamation
or treatment
Recycled water can be produced and/or advanced treatment Recycled water must also be fit
using different degrees of processes (Figure 3) and includes for the intended purpose from
treatment to produce a defined a disinfection process. There are an environmental perspective.
quality of water which will be fit also lower classes of recycled Treatment processes focus
for the intended purpose water (B, C and D), which for primarily on pathogen reduction
(Figure 3). health reasons have restrictions (human health) in recycled water
placed on them. For example, (Figure 3). However, part of the
Australia’s water industry is one restrictions include: crops that can recycled water treatment process
of the world leaders in water be grown (fresh versus produced can also substantially reduce
recycling. They use some of the peel or processed); the extent of nutrient and other contaminant
most developed and robust direct human contact with the levels, making it safer in aquatic
treatment technology and have water; and the method systems (e.g. environmental
a strong commitment to water of irrigation (spray versus flows). Advanced treatments can
recycling. subsurface drip). also remove salts resulting in
Class A is usually the best quality more environmentally sustainable
The treatment processes irrigation systems. However, the
recycled water as it must meet are carefully controlled and
stringent microbiological health more water is treated, the greater
monitored using food safety the cost. A balance between
standards before it is fit for the systems (e.g. Hazard Analysis and
purpose of irrigating all crops, economic and environmental
Critical Control Points – HACCP), sustainability and safety is often
even fresh vegetables (Class ensuring consistent water quality
A+ is used in Queensland and sought by government and
and compliance with State, industry.
refers to the same very high Territory and Commonwealth
quality recycled water described guidelines (see ‘Guidelines and
as Class A in other states). It is risk management’, page 5).
generally produced using tertiary
Figure 3
Treatment levels
and processes
typically used to
treat wastewater.
This diagram gives a
general indication of
parameters; it is not a
substitute for specific
guidelines and
verification processes

and risk
Australia is drafting a new The standard risk assessment
national guideline for recycled approach has 7 main steps:
water which refers to water being
fit for the intended purpose. 1. Communicate and consult
However, state guidelines still 2. Establish the context
refer to classes of water and
people generally understand 3. Identify the hazards/risk
what these mean in their state.
4. Analyse the risks
Recycled water can be produced
using different degrees of 5. Evaluate the risks
treatment to produce a defined
6. Treat the risks
quality of water (Figure 3).
In Australia, these qualities 7. Monitor and review the
Figure 4
Example of lilac
are commonly classified into hazards/risks
colouring of pipe Classes A, B, C or D, depending
and tap required for on the state/territory or federal 8. Record the risk management
recycled water use guidelines followed. Different process
in agricultural and guidelines have specific standards
urban areas that vary from state to state (e.g. HACCP is now the international
all states have Class D recycled standard for food safety. When
water except Tasmania). Most guidelines and best practice
states in Australia (SA, Tas, Vic, principles are followed, users and
NSW, Qld) have guidelines for consumers can be confident that
irrigation of crops and pastures it is safe to work with recycled
with recycled water. These water, the food grown with
have been developed from recycled water is safe, and that
extensive research in Australia the environment is not adversely
and around the world and from affected by the use of recycled
risk management principles. water.
Scheme operators, managers and
practitioners need to comply with
state and national guidelines.
How do I know
See your state guidelines for where recycled
detailed information regarding
appropriate water qualities water is used?
required for a specific reuse
scheme. In Australia, recycled water
plumbing and taps are identified
The new draft Australian National by their colour. Generally,
Guidelines for Water Recycling Australian design standards
use ‘fit for purpose’ in place of (AS/NZS 3500.5:2000) require all
the Class A to D system. The plumbing outlets, and in most
draft Guidelines (Feb 2006) cases pipes, to be marked with
have adopted a standard risk the colour lilac (Figure 4) and the
assessment ( words:
and Hazard Analysis and Critical “RECYCLED WATER — CAUTION
Control Point (HACCP) system. NOT FOR DRINKING” or similar as
approved by the relevant state
Common units
1 kilolitre (KL) = 1 000 litres (L) = 1
cubic metre = 1 tonne of water

1 000 KL = 1 megalitre (ML) = 1

million litres = 100 mm of water
over 1 hectare

An Olympic swimming
pool = 2.5 ML

1 Gigalitre (GL) = one thousand

million litres (1 000 ML)

What are the
potential risks
associated with
recycled water?
The risks associated with recycled
water must be minimised to
acceptable levels before recycled
water can be used in any specific
situation (i.e. the water must be
fit for purpose). In most cases,
these environmental and health
risks can be managed through
the level of wastewater treatment
or by the carefully managed
use of recycled water (Figure 5).
However, in some cases these
risks are too costly to manage
and the reuse scheme may not be
economically viable.

Individual state environment and/

or health related authorities are
generally responsible for ensuring
the water recycled is fit for the
intended use.

Key potential health risks

Microbial pathogens in
wastewater from sewage effluent
are the major concern for human
health when recycling water. The
major groups of pathogens are:

• Bacteria (e.g. Escherichia coli,

Salmonella spp)
• Viruses (e.g. Enteroviruses,
Rotavirus, Hepatitis A)
• Protozoa (e.g. Giardia Lamblia,
Cryptosporidium parvum)
• Helminths (e.g. Taenia spp
(Tapeworm), Ancylostoma spp 0.010
Cadmium concentration (mg/L)

(Hookworm)) 0.009
Not all infections make you 0.008
sick. To become infected by a 0.007
pathogen you must be exposed 0.006
to a sufficient number of
pathogens. If recycled water 0.005
is fit for the intended purpose, 0.004
exposure will be low and 0.003
infection unlikely as it is related to
the concentrations of pathogens
in the recycled water and the 0.001
amount of water ingested. 0
Marine Irrigation Drinking
water water water
guideline guideline guideline

Figure 5 Comparison of cadmium (a

heavy metal) concentration measured in
recycled water (Class A) with other water
guidelines limits in Australia
Key potential environmental Other risks which require
risks monitoring
Some of the common A broad range of chemicals
environmental risks from recycled have been identified as having
water include: the potential to alter normal
endocrine function in animals, i.e.
Salinity Nitrogen endocrine disrupting chemicals
Chronic problem which needs Mostly of benefit to cultivated (EDCs). At this stage, there is no
to be managed in all irrigation plants, but can cause evidence that environmental
systems. Can result in reduced eutrophication (excessive nutrient exposure to low levels of
plant growth and plant damage levels) in land and aquatic potential EDCs (potentially
and can impact on freshwater ecosystems. present in recycled water) affects
plants and invertebrates in human health because of the
natural ecosystems if discharged Phosphorus
relatively low exposure. However,
directly with little dilution. Mostly of benefit to cultivated
ongoing monitoring is required
Most common salts are sodium plants, but can cause
to ensure good risk management.
chloride. eutrophication (excessive nutrient
levels) in land and aquatic Pharmaceutical chemicals and
Sodicity ecosystems. their metabolites, potentially
Excess sodium in recycled water found in recycled water,
can cause soil dispersion/swelling, Chlorine residuals
raise similar issues to EDCs
reducing water infiltration on By-products of disinfection
(above). Health impacts from
heavier textured soils. This can be processes may be harmful to
pharmaceuticals should also be
difficult to remedy. aquatic or marine ecosystems
minimal because of the relatively
if discharged directly with little
low exposure. However, ongoing
Sodium dilution.
monitoring is required to ensure
Can be toxic to some plants
Hydraulic loading good risk management.
if it accumulates in soils from
ongoing irrigation. More Too much water applied to land
important as a component of can result in excess groundwater
salinity and sodicity. recharge, water logging and
secondary salinity.
Can be toxic to plants if Boron
sprayed directly on leaves, and Plant toxicity may arise in
some plants in some soils if
All of these risks
if it accumulates in soils from
ongoing irrigation, but is usually it accumulates from ongoing are manageable
more important as a component irrigation.
of salinity. if guidelines and
Some organic and inorganic appropriate risk
surface active agents from
detergents can remain in recycled management
water and be harmful to some
aquatic organisms.
principles are

How safe is Is recycled water Is recycled
recycled water? safe for use in water safe for
Recycled water is very safe when agriculture? use around the
guidelines are followed and it is
used for the intended purpose. Yes. In Australia, Class A is the home?
Recycled water schemes are highest rating for recycled water
approved by the designated used for irrigation and is equal Health and environmental risks
regulatory authorities in each to the most stringent guidelines from Class A recycled water
state of Australia. This is usually anywhere in the world. It also provided to households through
the departments responsible for exceeds standards recommended reticulated recycled water pipes
health and/or the environment. by the World Health Organisation (lilac) are very low as it has been
These departments assess the for irrigation of food crops. treated specifically for use around
level of risk to humans or the State Departments of Health the house and garden. Recycled
environment to determine if a and Environmental Protection water use inside the house is
recycled water scheme will be Authorities (or equivalent) set usually restricted to the toilet and
approved. The level of risk which these strict guidelines to ensure laundry.
is considered acceptable is the the safety of farmers irrigating
There is also an increasing trend
same, if not better, as that used with recycled water, the public
towards grey water use around
for drinking water treatment and and consumers. Every reuse
the home. On-site use of water
reticulation schemes in Australia. scheme requires the approval
from the laundry and bathroom
In many cases, recycled water of these departments and
(grey water) is not as safe as
more than meets many other must show that appropriate
treated ‘dual pipe’ recycled water
water quality guidelines used in control measures are in place
because it is likely to contain high
Australia (Figure 5). (before the reuse scheme is
numbers of micro-organisms,
commissioned) to guarantee a
some of which may cause disease.
particular water quality to the
Kitchen sink waste may pose
user, which is fit for purpose.
more health and environmental
These extensive safeguards
risk and is best disposed of via
ensure the microbiological and
sewerage systems.
chemical safety of recycled water
from a health and environmental National guidelines for grey water
perspective, and also the quality use suggest that grey water can
of food crops produced by be used for garden irrigation,
irrigating with recycled water. but only via drip or subsurface
emitters and not for vegetable
From a health and pathogen
crops. Fruit trees can be irrigated
perspective, Class A recycled
if subsurface or drip irrigation
water is considered suitable for
is used, provided that fruit is
unrestricted irrigation of all crops,
not allowed to fall on to the
including food crops. Lower
ground where bacteria and other
classes can be restricted to certain
pathogens from grey water may
agricultural crops depending on
the irrigation method, crop and
post harvest process involved.
Separate labelling for produce
is not needed as the produce is
required to meet the same food
safety standards as crops irrigated Yes
with traditional water sources.
Water recycling is
safe if appropriate
guidelines are
Figure 6
Birdlife on a wetland where
Is the person Environmental recycled water is the sole
water source
using recycled allocation
water safe? Beneficial environmental
allocation is the planned addition
Class A recycled water is of similar of recycled water to surface
or higher quality compared with waters. This can lead to: improved
many of the alternative water environmental outcomes for
sources currently used for fire biota, habitats and ecological
fighting, irrigating and road processes; improved cultural
making. Considering the quality values, contact recreation
of recycled water (Class A) and activities and aesthetic uses;
the degree of exposure to these and approved water extractions
users, their health will not be for irrigation. By default, some
compromised if good personal rivers in Australia already receive
hygiene is practised. considerable benefit from the
However, if lower classes of stream flow generated from
recycled water are used, more sewage treatment plants. For
detailed occupational health example, recycled water from
and safety procedures may be the city of Canberra discharges
required to minimise the user’s into the Molonglo River and
direct exposure to the recycled provides up to 100% of the river
water. flow at times. Removing this
flow could impact significantly
on environmental and social
Beneficial processes that are sustained by
the current ‘discharge’, as flow will
decrease significantly.

There is substantial opportunity

to increase the quality and
quantity of water flowing down
our rivers and streams by using
specifically tailored recycled

Acceptance of recycled water use in
agriculture and amenity horticulture
A number of surveys have Other research in Australia and
shown that acceptance of other parts of the world have
recycled water use varies across shown that consumers generally
communities. Generally, there accept produce irrigated with
is widespread support for recycled water if it is of the same
recycling water but the closer standard as produce grown with
the water comes to personal other water sources. Trust in
contact, the less acceptable government regulation is very
the reuse option. Factors that important.
might influence this are: source
of recycled water; degree of It is critical that users of recycled
contact; trust; emotion; risk water and people who purchase
perceptions; choice; knowledge; produce grown with it have ready
environmental attitudes; access to information when they
environmental justice issues; cost seek it. This information should
and socio-demographic factors. focus on issues and concerns that
Recent studies in Australia have are important to the particular
shown the first four factors above communities and might influence
(bolded) were most important their decisions to use the recycled
in influencing our acceptance of water or buy the produce.
recycled water.
Research has shown that where
The major predictors of how recycled water has been used for
people will behave toward some time in horticulture:
recycled water and irrigation of
• Growers and their markets
food crops are thought to be:
(including major retailers)
• Attitudes, which are have accepted the use of
influenced by emotion and recycled water to grow food
trust crops

• Subjective norms (i.e. what • Growers trust in the quality

those people we relate to control of recycled water has
think or would do) been strengthened by the fact
that produce has always been
• Emotions, which are accepted by the markets
influenced by trust and and there have been no
subjective norms detrimental health impacts

• Farmers value the water

• Quality assurance advisors

and wholesalers have
confirmed there is no
difference between
crops grown with recycled
water and traditional sources
Some important
issues for the
Who owns recycled water Supply of recycled water to
and how much is it worth? the end user
Currently, there is some confusion Reclamation of water from
regarding the ownership of sources such as sewage is now
recycled water, probably since an established component
the recycled water was previously of sustainable water resource
considered part of sewage management in Australia. This
treatment waste. Often recycled provides increased water security
water is sold to a company for and reduces direct discharge of
distribution to the users. However, nutrients and other contaminants
legal difficulties arise where to our rivers and oceans.
recycled water is discharged
to water bodies and then used Although demand for recycled
beneficially downstream. The water is likely to increase in the
discharge of recycled water could future, a major constraint to more
then potentially be withdrawn widespread use of water from the
by the water treatment body large city wastewater treatment
impacting on the user of this plants is the cost of pumping
water source. Such problems will recycled water back to the users.
need to be resolved in the near Most capital city sewerage
future if the industry is to develop systems have made effective use
smoothly. Research into access to of gravity to pipe sewage to the
recycled water and determining coast where sewage treatment
responsibilities for recycled water plants and the ocean outfalls are
is currently underway. located. The direct and indirect
(greenhouse) cost of pumping
back uphill may be prohibitive.

Selected large industrial reuse

projects and urban landscaping
projects which are located close
to wastewater reclamation
plants are cheaper to establish
Summary than dual reticulation residential
schemes from large centralised
Recycled water has become an integral part of Australia’s water reclamation plants. However,
resources. If guidelines are followed and recycled water is used for for new residential subdivisions
the purpose intended, risks to human and environmental health the cost of a second pipe adds
are insignificant. However, the benefits are significant. For example: only a relatively small amount
recycling of nutrients; replacement of water to be used for irrigation to the price of each block. There
that can be now used for drinking; beneficial allocation to the may be more economic benefit
environment; reduced nutrient and contaminant loads into water to build smaller scale local
bodies; reduced stress on traditional water sources; and guaranteed reclamation systems, rather than
water supply to recycled water users. to install large mains and incur
the substantial energy costs of
pumping over long distances
and challenging topography.
Establishing recycling systems
during development of regions is
almost always more cost effective
than retro-fitting.
Some examples
of recycled
water schemes
in Australia
Virginia Water Recycling Eastern Irrigation Scheme Northern Territory
Scheme, SA South East Melbourne, Vic (forestry, sports grounds
(horticulture) (horticulture, sports and public landscapes)
The Virginia Water Recycling grounds and households) Recycled water is used on a
Scheme is one of the largest The Eastern Irrigation Scheme limited basis in Darwin, Pine
recycled water schemes in delivers 5 000 ML of Class A Creek, Katherine, and Alice
Australia. A $30 million filtration/ recycled water each year for Springs. However, the demand
disinfection plant was built to irrigating market gardens, golf for recycled water from large
treat effluent from the Bolivar courses, racetracks and residential irrigation customers is increasing.
sewage treatment plant, developments. The scheme was Benefits include the potential
producing Class A recycled water officially launched in May 2005 to reduce watering costs and
which is used without restriction and is a partnership between potable water use, and extend
for irrigation of horticultural and Melbourne Water and Earth Tech, watering during dry periods.
agricultural produce (e.g. carrot, a private engineering company.
broccoli and pasture). Kwinana, WA
Earth Tech designed and built (industrial)
The 100 km pipeline recycled an ultrafiltration plant, the There have been few water
water distribution network is largest of its kind in Australia, reuse schemes in the Perth
owned and operated by Earth to process treated wastewater metropolitan area to date due to
Tech, a private engineering from Melbourne Water’s Eastern the availability of groundwater
company. The scheme has grown Treatment Plant to Class A and concerns about the possible
rapidly from using 1 600 ML in standard. Earth Tech also contamination of groundwater
1998 to 12 100 ML in 2005 designed and built the 50km from recycled water. However, a
(20 000 ML has been contracted pipeline network to distribute the major reuse project is underway
to growers). This quantity of water, recycled water. at Kwinana, producing 5 000 ML/
treated to a lower standard, would year for mining, power, chemical,
otherwise have been discharged It will also supply a residential
fertiliser and petroleum industries
to the Gulf of St Vincent and third pipe development for toilet
in the area.
diminishing groundwater flushing and garden watering in
reserves in the region used for the Cranbourne-Five Ways area. Rouse Hill, NSW
irrigation instead. Approximately 2 000 homes at
Sandhurst and two 18-hole golf (households)
The water is used by more than courses in Carrum Downs are More than 15 000 households at
240 growers to irrigate a range of already connected under this Rouse Hill, in the north west of
food and non-food crops sold to scheme, ultimately using 1 200 Sydney, are currently connected
local, national and international ML of recycled water a year for in a third pipe recycled water
markets. the golf courses and recreational scheme run by Sydney Water. The
areas, as well as for residential homes have two water supplies:
garden watering and toilet recycled water and drinking
flushing. water. The recycled water taps,
pipe work and plumbing fittings
are coloured lilac to ensure that
recycled water is not confused
with drinking water. Drinking
water is used for drinking,
cooking and showering. The
Figure 7 Membrane filtration
bank for recycling water at recycled water is used for garden
South East Melbourne watering, washing cars, toilet
flushing, park and golf course
irrigation and for local industrial
Hervey Bay, Qld
(recreational and
Wide Bay Water at Hervey Bay is
providing recycled water from
its sewage treatment plant for
use on sugar cane, a turf farm,
a golf courses, sports fields
and other uses. They currently
recycle greater than 90% of their

Australia Trade Coast, Qld

(industry and green-field)
Australia Trade Coast (ATC) was
launched in May 1999 as an
initiative to transform Brisbane’s
8 000 hectare ‘ports’ precinct
into a major global trade and
industry hub on the East Coast
of Australia. The predicted
growth will outstrip drinking
water supply infrastructure into
the future. A Water Master Plan
for the area will make available
both Class A and demineralised
water from local wastewater
treatment plants to specific
zones in the ATC. Stage 1 was
completed in 2000 and supplies
10 ML/d of demineralised water
to an oil refinery. Stage 2, soon
to be implemented, will supply
other existing large water using
customers in the area from
other local treatment plants.
Stage 3 will be constructed in
line with market development
of green-field space in the area.
The total scheme is expected to
supply approximately 50 ML/d of
recycled water, offsetting a similar
amount of drinking water.

Beneficial allocations Grey water Unplanned or incidental
Planned allocations of recycled Wastewater from the hand basin, recycling for drinking
water to surface waters. They may shower, bath, spa bath, washing Use of recycled water after it has
provide improved environmental machine, laundry tub. It is not been treated and then discharged
outcomes for biota, habitats and the water from the toilet, kitchen into surface or groundwaters
ecological processes, improved sink or dishwasher. Water from from which further water is
cultural values (contact recreation the kitchen is generally too high taken for human ‘drinking
and aesthetic use), as well as in grease and oil to be reused water’ supplies. For example,
approved water extractions for successfully without significant Adelaide takes up to 85% of its
irrigation. treatment. water from the River Murray,
downstream from many towns
Biosolids Indirect recycling discharging treated effluent into
Organic material which comes The beneficial use of water the Murrumbidgee/Murray river
from micro-organisms used in after it has been discharged system.
sewage treatment and water from from a treatment plant into
this process. a natural surface water or Wastewater
groundwater body, from which Water which is being disposed
Black water water is extracted often without after it has been used.
Toilet waste. consideration of the origin of the
water. Water reclamation
Direct recycling for drinking Treatment of wastewater to
This encompasses water that has Non-potable water make it reusable for one or
been highly treated to make it Water that does not meet more applications. The process
suitable for human drinking water drinking water standards, but may produces recycled water.
use and is conveyed directly from be fit for other specifically defined
the treatment plant to the water purposes. Water reuse
supply system. The best-known Beneficial and planned use
example is in Windhoek, Namibia. Pathogen of recycled or treated water
Disease-causing micro-organism. for specific purposes such
Drinking water as irrigation, industrial or
(potable water) Recycled water environmental uses especially
Water suitable for human Water that has been through a on-site (e.g. reuse household ‘grey
consumption without reclamation process and used for water’ for garden irrigation).
health risks. another purpose. Reclaimed and
recycled water are commonly Water recycling
‘Dual pipe’ systems used to mean the same thing. Reclamation of wastewater
Provision of recycled water to generated by a given user for
households via a centralised Reclaimed water on-site use by the same user,
reticulated mains system. Typical Water delivered from wastewater such as in industry (e.g. systems
uses are garden watering, toilet and treated to a level appropriate for washing and cooling, which
flushing and car washing. for its intended use. use the same water several
times, with or without treatment
Effluent Sewage between uses). However, it is now
Out-flow of water or wastewater Used water and waste substance commonly used as a generic term
from any water processing system produced by human bodies for water reclamation and reuse
or device. and industries, transported in in Australia.
sewerage systems.
Environmental flows
Beneficial allocation of water Stormwater
specifically for environmental Water which runs off urban
gains. and semi-urban developments
following rainfall on roads, the
Fit for purpose ground, roofs, footpaths etc,
Safe for the intended use. usually carried away by drains.
Contaminants are picked up from
the surfaces stormwater runs over.
Further information
National guidelines
NRMMC, EPHC (2005) National Guidelines for Water Recycling. Managing Health and
Environmental Risks. Draft for public consultation.
ANZECC & ARMCANZ, NHMRC (2000) Guidelines for sewerage systems: Use of reclaimed water.
NWQMS Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality
DAFF (2005) Guidelines for developing recycled water schemes in horticulture

State recycled water use guidelines available online


State agencies
EPA New South Wales
EPA Queensland
EPA South Australia
Primary Industries, Water
& Environment (Tas)
EPA Victoria
EPA Western Australia

Websites for more information on recycled water

Australian Heritage Commission
Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry – Australia
ATSE Water Recycling Report (Radcliffe 2004)
CRC for Water Quality and Treatment
Department of Environment and Heritage
National Program for Sustainable Irrigation
Murray Darling Basin Commission
National Coordinator Reclaimed Water
Development in Horticulture
National Environmental Protection Council
United States EPA
World Water Council

Other useful reference materials

ABS (2004) ‘Water accounts Australia 2000-01.’ (Australian Bureau of Statistics: Canberra, Australia).

Hamilton AJ, Boland A, Stevens D, Kelly J, Radcliffe J, A. Z, Dillon P, Paulin B (2005) Position of the Australian
horticultural industry with respect to the use of reclaimed water. Agricultural Water Management 71, 181-209.

Radcliffe J (2004) ‘Water recycling in Australia.’ (Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and
Engineering, Parkville, Victoria).

Stevens D (Ed) (2006) Growing Crops with Reclaimed Wastewater. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.