This year’s summer was hot and unusually dry. The figures released from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology show Ballina had the lowest recorded summer rainfall in 25 years (just 109.2mm).
The hot weather has meant that Ballina Shire Council’s recycled water was in high demand and proved its value and capability as a drought-proof water source.
Traditionally, water is used only once, treated and discharged into local waterways. But recycled water can be reused multiple times, which reduce demands on our precious drinking water.
Over 10 years ago the Ballina Shire community expressed their desire to save drinking water resources and improve sustainable water outcomes. Following this feedback Council developed a Recycled Water Masterplan and invested in innovative recycled water infrastructure.
‘This summer we have seen the fruits of our long term planning,’ said Bridget Walker, Ballina Shire Council’s Manager of Water and Wastewater.
‘This summer’s statistics show why the reliable, crystal clear and safe water source was a valuable investment for our local community and environment. This would not have been possible without the community and Council’s sustainable and proactive approach back in the early 2000s.’
Council’s Treatment Plants Process Engineer, Thomas Lees is at the forefront of Council’s recycled water treatment and sees first hand how changes in climate impact demand. ‘This summer’s dry and hot weather caused a greater demand for recycled water across the shire,’ he said. ‘This demand increased use, therefore reducing the volume of treated wastewater discharged to the ocean.’
Some of the summer recycled water statistics include: almost 100% of Alstonville and Wardell’s wastewater was treated and reused to irrigate local nurseries and farms; 62% of Lennox Head’s wastewater was treated and reused by our dual reticulated recycled water residents in Lennox Head and Ballina, and; the demand for dual reticulated recycled water has been so great that since 1 December 2018 180 million litres has been prevented from being discharged to the ocean.
‘Unfortunately, long term climate trends indicate it’s likely we’ll experience more long and dry summers. The good news is recycled water can be reused multiple times, is not impacted by water restrictions and reduces the demand on our precious drinking water sources,’ said Lees.
Recycled water was initially launched in 2016 to Lennox Head households and was the first service of its kind in regional NSW. Since then its usage has saved hundreds of mega litres of precious drinking water.
These savings will continue to grow as new homes are built, and ultimately recycled will be supplied to some 7,200 homes across the shire.
Recycled water can be used for irrigating gardens, washing pets, flushing toilets and the cold washing machine tap, but cannot be used for drinking, cooking or bathing.