Ballina leads the way with recycled water use

Posted 4 August 2016

Water hose

Ballina has become the first regional council in New South Wales to deliver recycled water for household use, winning community support and moving to reduce bulk-water demand by 80% in the process.

While wastewater recycling has come up against opposition in other residential areas of Australia, Ballina's recycled water program did not face the same level of resistance, according to Ballina Shire Council Acting Manager Water and Wastewater Thomas Lees.

“In 2003, we had the situation where we needed to do augmentation works to council's wastewater assets and that involved enlarging the ocean outfall for the Lennox Head treatment plant,” he said.

“That came up against resistance because the ocean outfall location is quite a popular surfing spot.

“Through community consultation it was determined that the opposition [to enlarging the ocean outfall] was so strong that recycled water was preferred.”

The $140 million project has been designed to deliver 80% dry-weather reuse by 2026, which will  not only deliver a corresponding 80% reduction in ocean outfall, it will also reduce demand for bulk water 80%, Lees said.

“One of the concerns [with recycled water] is obviously the cost and any kind of scenario where you can offset a large amount of drinking water infrastructure will obviously make the project a lot more commercially viable,” he said.

“The way we've done that is by reducing demand from our bulk provider, so that itself offsets infrastructure that may be needed in the short term.”

Around 160 new houses in Lennox Head are already receiving the water, but at full capacity 7200 houses across the shire will be connected.

The project has required a new water treatment plant and major upgrades to a second plant.

“There was augmentation to our Lennox Head treatment plant which used a traditional extended aeration decant process. So we included ultrafiltration, UV disinfection and chlorination on the end of that plant,” Lees said.

“With Ballina though [where work is ongoing], it was a completely new asset and that was built as a membrane bioreactor with UV and chlorine disinfection on the back end.”

This treatment allows for high exposure uses like watering gardens, flushing toilets and providing cold water for washing machines.

However, filling up pools, drinking, cooking or showering with the water is not approved.