Water Recycling Specialist Network: Our work so far and what's next
On 7 September 2021, the Water Recycling Specialist Network held its first member circle. Over 70 people attended the event. The event introduced the committee members, provided an overview of the group’s membership, and explored the interest areas of the group to direct future network events.
The pre-event survey and discussion at the member circle confirmed the valuable role of the network in supporting information sharing through interactive forums that facilitate networking. The survey and breakout room discussion highlighted the very broad interests of the group, reflecting the diversity of recycled water issues.
Key areas of interest to the group (from the members’ survey)
The member circle also provided an overview of the OzWater’21 panel session the committee facilitated on "Purified Recycled Water (PRW) for Drinking: The Need for a National Approach”. The panel aimed to build on previous workshops held at OzWater’17 and OzWater’19, to continue the conversation and explore strategies needed to progress the PRW agenda. The panel intended to; explore the likelihood of further adoption of PRW in Australia, barriers to implementation, and consider the need for a long-term and consistent “national” approach to ensure the success of future PRW schemes. The key take-away of the OzWater’21 session was that the main perceived barriers to the adoption of PRW continue to be attitudes of government and policy-makers, as well as lack of awareness, education and support in the community. The panel consisted of four panellists who provided diverse and detailed perspectives regarding PRWD, drawing on knowledge and experience across industry associations, social science, regulation, and operations. The industry perspectives were:
- The Water Industry Association - Danielle Francis - Manager Liveable Communities, Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA,)
- The Social Scientist - Christina Semasingha - PhD candidate (Deakin University, Barwon Water & Water Research Australia)
- The Regulator - Dr David Cunliffe - Principal Water Quality Advisor, SA Health
- The PRWD Scheme Operator - Neil Brennan - CEO, Seqwater
During the panel session, a series of short polls of the attendees were carried out. The polling questions were structured to facilitate comparison with the 2017 survey results, along with new questions, to get a better sense of the sentiment of the attendees towards the challenges of implementation of PRW in Australia. A summary of the key results includes:
- An increase in “very likely” responses, compared to 2017, when asked about the likelihood of small/large Australian cities developing new planned potable reuse projects in the next 20 years. This increase was from 38% to 62% for large cities (population > 100,000) and from 29% to 47% for small cities.
- 86% of people agreed that there is a need for a national approach to PRW.
- A “for industry, by industry” approach, through the water industry associations (WSAA, AWA, etc) was the most favoured for leading a unified national approach to PRW. The second highest ranked option was for National Cabinet to take on responsibility for driving a national approach to PRW.
Upcoming Water Recycling Specialist Network Events
The Committee aims to support further networking and knowledge sharing opportunities across key focus areas over the coming months including member circle webinars on the following topics:
- Potable reuse – member circle on the Western Corridor project presented by Seqwater (February 8th, 2022).
- Treatment and regulation – with a member circle on validation of recycled water schemes and what’s next for WaterVal (March 24th, 2022).
- Water recycling via aquifers – a member’s circle on use of Managed Aquifer Recharge in stormwater and wastewater recycling projects and research from across Australia (date TBA).
Please note that the above events will only be open to members of the Water Recycling Specialist Network, so if you are interested, please join by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or via the ‘Update My Details’ section of the AWA Members Portal.
Introduction to the Water Recycling Specialist Network
Membership statistics of the Water Recycling Specialist Network
The Water Recycling Specialist Network has nearly 950 registered members, covering all of Australia making it one of the largest Specialist Networks. Its committee has 12 members from across four states. The objectives of the Water Recycling Specialist Network are to:
- facilitate networking and knowledge sharing
- promote water recycling as a source of water for Australia’s communities, industries, and agriculture
- enhance water recycling knowledge and understanding
- provide forums to discuss current water recycling topics and issues
- provision of advice and knowledge sharing