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Tapping wastewater opportunities to achieve the Parkland City vision

As plans for the development of Western Sydney’s Parkland City continue to progress, an innovative partnership has created an adaptive long-term water servicing plan for the Macarthur region, incorporating integrated water management solutions to create water security.

In order to help deliver the vision for the Parkland City, Aurecon partnered with Sydney Water to embark on a ‘total water cycle management’ approach to water service planning, focusing on optimising the role of wastewater servicing.
Set to present at Ozwater’24 on utilising wastewater as a vehicle for resilience and water security in the Macarthur plan, Aurecon Lead Engineer Subha Balasubramanian said the strategy focuses on the water challenges specific to the region.
“The Parkland City vision is for all of Western Sydney, one that aims to create a liveable community with access to a network of connecting waterways and cool, green spaces. Macarthur is a subset within Western Sydney and has its own unique challenges and opportunities in terms of being able to achieve that vision,” she said.
“We knew that population in Macarthur was expected to double in 30 years. There are existing systems that provide drinking water and wastewater services, and the projected growth will place additional burden on these systems.”
Balasubramanian said developing a water servicing plan for Macarthur was no easy feat, and necessitated taking a new, whole-of-system approach to solutions and pathways.
“There are a lot of things that have to come together if we are going to realise the Parkland City vision within a 30-year timeframe. We needed to look at both the short-term and long-term needs together,” she said.
“We’ll need excellent waterway management to be able to look after biodiversity in the region. We’ll need more tree canopy for cooling to improve livability and amenity, and we’ll need to support growth – about 200,000 extra homes – while all of this is happening.
“With all of these needs, it's clear that we must approach the future servicing needs in a different way. We need to rethink the water cycle.
“The Macarthur plan is very much a forward-thinking strategy that addresses how we can provide water services over a long period of time. It’s designed so that, each step of the way, we’re moving closer to the vision, so that we can build towards the goal in incremental steps.”

Unlocking circularity

During the initial stage of developing the plan, water security was the overriding topic of the day, Balasubramanian said.
“Typically, water and wastewater systems are viewed as separate systems. We tend to treat drinking water and wastewater as separate products, we don’t necessarily think of these two things together. But each can support the other – they’re interconnected.”
The plan involves a new wastewater treatment facility to keep and reuse water within the catchment, enables a regionalised stormwater management approach, positions the region for a future purified recycled water source, and protects the region’s waterways at reduced cost.
“The current wastewater system is set up to transfer wastewater out of the catchment, it goes to the coast and gets discharged to the ocean. But we wanted to keep that water in the region.
“We moved towards building a new facility that can treat the water locally, making it available locally to recycle it to support the cool, green spaces we need to create. It goes a long way to creating alternative water sources we will need in the area.”
Balasubramanian said recycling and reusing wastewater locally builds much more resilience into the region, due to being climate-independent.
“Wastewater is a reliable source. And reusing it in the area creates more options for providing alternative water sources. It also reduces the burden on the drinking water system,” she said.
“In addressing the wastewater problem, we started to unlock a lot of potential for alternative water sources. We also consider the potential opportunity to create purified recycled water, as well. That starts to give us a rainfall independent supply.
“In understanding and delivering a wastewater solution, we were able to create opportunities and benefits that put us in a much better position to address the challenge of reducing the burden on drinking water, while also having enough water for green spaces.”

Community minded

“Through the course of developing the plan, we engaged with the key stakeholders in the region to understand the things they wanted to see included. We did extensive collaboration with the stakeholders in the region,” Balasubramanian said.
“We know that when we put plans forward, they need to speak to the expectations of the community that lives there.
“It’s crucial to have a sensible plan that works through implementation progressively to ensure that investment isn’t wasted. There’s also the need to make sure the solution you are investing in is the right solution for the right time.”
With circular thinking, all the steps are interlinked, Balasubramanian said: “Step one is about positioning yourself to get to step four”.
“As the plan is implemented, we want to make sure we are supporting the needs of the community here and now, while also setting up the capacity to deliver for needs in future,” she said. 
“Things could change. In 10 years time, we could be dealing with different requirements. Regulation around discharges could have changed by then, or community desires and expectations.
“We need to make sure the strategy is capable of adapting and responding to potential shifts.”
Interested in learning more about the Macarthur plan developed by Aurecon and Sydney Water? Register for Ozwater’24 here.