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Business grant program leads to water savings win

Supporting local businesses to save drinking water is part of one Victorian utility’s strategy for a secure water future, with a recent grant-funded project homing in on leak detection to save megalitres of water.

Covering 50% of the direct costs of approved projects that deliver permanent reductions in drinking water consumption, Barwon Water's business water-savings grants program recently provided GeelongPort with funds to install seven data loggers to track water use on site.

The data loggers have been in use for about 12 months and have identified a number of leaks of various sizes and locations around the port precinct, leading to significant water savings.

Barwon Water's General Manager of Customers, Community and Strategy Laura Kendall said the program not only helps local businesses save water and money, but also helps the utility achieve its objectives.

“The grants are designed to help high water-using businesses save our precious drinking water resources and save themselves money at the same time,” she said. 

“Supporting our customers to save water is a win-win for Barwon Water. Using water efficiently is crucial to our region’s sustainability and ongoing water security.

“Helping customers to save water and reduce their costs also helps us meet our objective of supporting the region’s economic prosperity.”

GeelongPort CEO Brett Winter said Barwon Water's business water-savings grants program was the perfect opportunity, as the port is always on the lookout for ways it could lessen its environmental impact.

“GeelongPort believes in achieving positive, long-term environmental outcomes for our business and our region. In our current Environment Strategy we have a strong focus on improving the management of all resources and eliminating any unnecessary waste,” he said. 

Detecting water loss

GeelongPort Environment Specialist Nelson Taylor said that while the data loggers project had only been running for 12 months, it has already led to outstanding results.

“The loggers, which are attached to a portal so that staff have 24/7 access to usage data, recently alerted us to a leak of 1.85 KL per minute that occurred under one of the port’s berths,” he said. 

“Without the logger, the water loss could have amounted to 18.6 ML if gone unnoticed for a week.”

The port checks the data regularly and investigates any extended periods of non-zero flows, Taylor said, and has proven to be very useful for focused maintenance projects. 

“This process has helped us locate and repair four large leaks over the past 12 months, some of which may have run unnoticed in underground pipes for extended periods of time had the data loggers not been installed,” he said. 

“With the loggers providing real-time data and alerts, unusual consumption is noticed immediately and investigated.”

GeelongPort will also use the data to report on their efficiency performance indicators, Taylor said, further supporting the business to track and meet its own sustainability goals. 

“The data from the loggers is also matched with ship and operational movements to understand how water is being used, resulting in efficiency improvements with our general water consumption,” he said. 

The project is an example of what can be achieved when an environmentally minded business makes use of a business water-saving grant, Kendall said.

“Well done on GeelongPort for coming up with a great water-saving project,” she said. 

“Barwon Water, like other water corporations, faces the challenge of ensuring it meets the needs of a growing population. Improved water efficiency can help us meet this challenge.

“By saving water now, we can defer the need for future supply upgrades (and associated costs), which helps to keep customer bills low.”

Next steps

While the water-savings grants are proving to be a big success, Kendall said the program is connected to Barwon Water’s long-term urban water strategy.

“Our Urban Water Strategy: Water for our Future (2022) sets out Barwon Water’s plan to meet demand for the next 50 years, and comprises 25 actions over the next five years that will save water, source new water, reuse water and return water to the environment,” she said.

“As part of the strategy, we have committed $2.5 million over five years to work with our customers to save 1 GL of water. 

“Saving that water in the next five years helps delay the need for more significant investment in infrastructure in the future to increase regional supply to meet growing demand.”

In addition to water-saving goals, Kendall said other benefits to the water efficiency programs include building strong and trusted relationships with customers and responding to their feedback about helping them use water wisely.

“As well as working with customers to save water through sustainable water use programs, we are looking to expand our use of smart technology to save water across our networks, and customers’ homes and businesses,” she said.

“The strategy also details investments we will make to ensure the region’s water future, including expanding the reach of the Melbourne-Geelong pipeline, building an underground pipeline from Colac to service Birregurra and upgrading the Apollo Bay storage basin.”

With the business water-savings grants program comprising just one element of the utility’s five-year Sustainable Water Use Plan, Kendall said Barwon Water is also offering other key water-savings programs.

“Other customer programs include  business rebates for water-efficient products and services and plumbing support programs for residential customers,” she said.

“Our schools education program and Birregurra Sustainable Communities – Water project are other examples of where we are working with the community to save water.”