What we do with our waste water as the country burns and the rivers run dry is being brought into sharper focus. At today’s Ballina Shire Council meeting Councillor Jeff Johnson is proposing that the council ‘review the implementation of the Recycled Water Master Plan, and assesses the current level of recycled water use across the shire, with a view to increasing the reuse goal from 80 per cent dry weather reuse to 100 per cent dry weather reuse’.
‘I see this as the logical extension of the existing recycled water program that Ballina Shire Council has implemented over the last eight years,’ Councillor Johnson told Echonetdaily. ‘The changing weather and our increasing population is putting pressure on Ballina and our regions long term water security. Increasing the use of recycled water is one way to ensure that our water supply can continue to provide in the medium to longer term. Obviously demand management and onsite rainwater tanks are also part of the solution.’
What is sustainable?
Ballina Shire’s water is supplied by Rous County Council (RCC) who also supply Lismore Shire, most of Byron Shire and parts of Richmond Valley Shire Council. Over the next 40 years it is predicted that the population will grow by 50 per cent in the area supplied by RCC but the recent drought and impact of fires are providing a sharper focus on what is sustainable in the region.
‘We need to think about what the future holds in relation to water sharing plans (WSP) as many of the current processes aren’t working,’ said Associate Professor Peter Coombes who was recently appointed as chair of engineering and associate professor in water resources engineering at Southern Cross University.
‘You need to have agile planning processes to meet the challenges of the future. We need to move to the next phase of the planning to sort this out.’
Ballina leads the way
Councillor Johnson also highlighted additional benefits of more effective use of recycled water including ‘improvements to the quality of the surface of our sporting fields and potentially assisting water intensive industries to flourish in certain areas that can be connected to the recycled water network’.
‘While I understand that during periods of high rainfall it is impossible to divert all of the treated effluent away from our creeks and waterways, if Council can create employment opportunities and improve our sports field and open spaces, while at the same time reducing the effluent going into our water ways then that would be a win-win. ‘As Ballina Council is already leading the way when it comes to recycled or reuse of treated effluent, a well designed and costed expansion of this program should be eligible for grant funding due to the benefits that it would have to the environment, our long term water security and also as a pilot project that other Council areas could adopt.’