31 August 2007 – LAWFUEL – Ongoing severe water restrictions in many Australian cities, regional centres and smaller towns has prompted the emergence of several recycled water initiatives, in an attempt to better manage scarce water resources.
The State Government’s 5 Star Plus building initiative proposes to introduce mandatory water efficiency measures into all new houses from 2008, including:
plumbing to toilets to allow for alternative water supply at a later date
plumbing drainage to allow easy recycling of grey water at a later date for use on lawns and gardens
an alternative water supply for appropriate non-potable use in houses with high water demand
Industry (and government) must now catch up with policy announcements and determine how, where and by whom new water infrastructure (including wastewater treatment plants, third pipe networks and so on) will be established.
Water recycling in residential developments
Opportunities exist, particularly in new subdivisions and masterplanned communities to establish economically viable, large-scale recycled water system and treatment plants to service entire communities. Those opportunities have now started to be realised.
On 29 August 2007, the Minister for Planning & Infrastructure, Alannah MacTiernan, announced a requirement for a service provider to own, operate and manage a recycled water system for non-drinking purposes and an associated wastewater system for the proposed sustainable development of Gracetown. The new 140-lot Landcorp development is the first to receive this water saving infrastructure and other private developments will offer similar opportunities.
Regulatory, policy and legal developments
In late July 2007, the Economic Regulatory Authority issued a notice seeking public comment on the Inquiry on Competition in the Water and Wastewater Services Sector.
The State Government is due to release the Western Australian Water Conservation and Recycling Strategy in late 2007.
At a national level, the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (Cth) has recently released the Australian Guidelines for Water Recycling: Managing Health and Environmental Risks (Phase 1) and Augmentation of Drinking Water Supplies (Phase 2) public comment.
These initiatives will inform the development of regulations, designed to address the potentially significant public health and environmental concerns associated with greywater recycled water re-use, at a domestic and local government level.
Additionally, this sector will also bring forward its own legal and commercial issues, including the usual environmental and planning approvals but also extending to public health, liability and commercial issues.